Trump Administration Deploys Additional Law Enforcement To Portland
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Portland's mayor is calling for a meeting with leadership at the Department of Homeland Security. He wants to discuss a, quote, "cease-fire" in the standoff between federal police agents and protesters in his city. But the federal government is deploying more law enforcement agents there. Oregon Public Broadcasting's Conrad Wilson has more.
CONRAD WILSON, BYLINE: Multiple federal law enforcement sources say they're deploying dozens of additional federal officers to help with nightly protests outside the federal courthouse in downtown Portland. Court documents from last week show 114 officers from a variety of federal agencies are already on site. The agencies have ranged from the U.S. Marshals to the Federal Protective Service to ICE and Customs and Border Protection. At the same time, federal officials acknowledged to Oregon Public Broadcasting that the deployed force has contributed to the quick escalation with protesters. During a news conference Monday, Oregon U.S. Attorney Billy Williams said since early July, federal officers have made more than 80 arrests and have more than 60 pending criminal cases, mostly misdemeanors.
(SOUNDBITE OF NEWS CONFERENCE)
BILLY WILLIAMS: Those of us in the U.S. Attorney's Office are aware that we are in the midst of a historic civil unrest due to generations of racial injustice and the tragic murder of George Floyd.
WILSON: But Williams says federal officers won't leave the courthouse undefended.
(SOUNDBITE OF NEWS CONFERENCE)
WILLIAMS: This building is the solution, not the problem. It absolutely represents everything essential to our system of justice.
WILSON: Earlier this month, protests in Portland had dwindled to less than 100 people at times, but then President Trump sent federal law enforcement to the city as part of an executive order. A U.S. marshal shot a protester in the head with a crowd control device, and officers with the Department of Homeland Security made overnight arrests using unmarked vehicles. After those incidents, the size of the protests increased dramatically. This weekend, crowds outside the courthouse topped an estimated 5,000 people at one point.
MAC SMIFF: Federal law enforcement made everything bigger.
WILSON: Portland protest leader Mac Smiff has been marching for racial justice ever since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
MAC SMIFF: The momentum is nuts and the feds keep escalating.
WILSON: So far, the federal government's response to protests has led to multiple civil rights lawsuits and a Department of Justice inspector general investigation.
For NPR News, I'm Conrad Wilson in Portland.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.