Oregon Gov. Kate Brown's office announced on Wednesday morning that the U.S. government will begin a "phased withdrawal" of federal agents from Portland after clashes with protestors. The announcement comes after the government sent at least 100 federal agents to the city, where they have met Black Lives Matter protestors with violence and chemical weapons outside the Mark Hatfield Courthouse over the past several weeks. Local city and state officials have been calling for the feds to leave Portland for weeks. But while they are leaving Portland, the federal agents are being sent to other cities as an expansion of “Operation Legend,” announced by the White House last week as a new “anti-crime” initiative.
The decision to remove federal agents from Portland comes after discussion with Vice President Mike Pence’s office and other officials within the Trump administration, Brown’s office said in a statement. The federal officers — many of whom are with the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection — have also agreed to clean up the courthouse and remove the graffiti covering it. Beginning Thursday, all CBP and ICE officers will leave downtown Portland.
“These federal officers have acted as an occupying force, refused accountability, and brought violence and strife to our community,” Brown said. As the media and protestors have noted, the presence of federal officers has actually caused the violence in Portland to increase, not decrease. Protesters have been tear-gassed and shot with rubber bullets, pulled off the streets into unmarked vehicles, and been met with aggression at every turn.
Last week, the White House announced they were sending federal officers to Chicago, Albuquerque, and Kansas City to crack down on “gang-related” gun violence. On Wednesday, the Justice Department said they were expanding the use of federal police forces to Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee. This tactic is one that experts have noted is used by authoritarian governments, and has the effect of stirring up greater unrest.
“Across America and across Oregon, the Black Lives Matter movement has led a historic uprising, centering Black voices demanding justice and greater police accountability,” Brown’s office said. “If slavery is America’s original sin, then anti-Blackness is Oregon’s. Even before it was recognized as a state, Oregon prevented African-Americans from settling here and owning property. For far too long, Oregon’s constitution ingrained discrimination into state law. Black, white, brown, and indigenous Oregonians are ready to address systemic racism. Let’s get to work.”