PORTLAND, Ore. — U.S. officers will remain in Portland until attacks on a federal courthouse cease, a top official said Monday after another night of violence. And more officers may soon be on the way.
“It is not a solution to tell federal officers to leave when there continues to be attacks on federal property and personnel,” U.S. Attorney Billy Williams said. “We are not leaving the building unprotected to be destroyed by people intent on doing so.”
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty called for a meeting with Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf to discuss a cease-fire and removal of heightened federal forces from Portland.
The city has had nightly protests for two months since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.
Early Monday, U.S. agents repeatedly fired tear gas, flash bangs and pepper balls at protesters outside the federal courthouse in downtown Portland. Some protesters had climbed over the fence surrounding the courthouse, while others shot fireworks, banged on the fence and projected lights on the building.
Trump said on Twitter that federal properties in Portland “wouldn’t last a day” without the presence of the federal agents.
The daily demonstrations have included pelting officers with objects and trying to tear down fencing protecting the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse.
Williams, whose office is inside the courthouse, called on peaceful protesters, community and business leaders and people of faith to not allow violence to occur in their presence and to leave downtown before violence starts. He said federal agents have made 83 arrests.
Demonstrations in other cities around the U.S. were marred by violence over the weekend. Protesters set fire to an Oakland, California, courthouse; vehicles were set ablaze in Richmond, Virginia; an armed protester was shot and killed in Austin, Texas; and two people were shot and wounded in Aurora, Colorado, after a car drove through a protest.
Kris Cline, principal deputy director of Federal Protective Service, said an incident commander in Portland and teams from the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice discuss what force is needed every night.
Cline refused to discuss the number of officers currently present or if more would be arriving.
Cline said Portland police should take over the job of dispersing protesters from the courthouse area from the federal officers.
“If the Portland Police Bureau were able to do what they typically do, they would be able to clear this out for this disturbance and we would leave our officers inside the building and not be visible,” Cline said.
He said relations between the federal officers, some of whom live in Portland, and city police were good.
Portland police responded Sunday evening to a shooting at a park close to the site of the protests. Two people were detained and later released, police said. The person who was shot went to the hospital in a private vehicle and was treated for a non-life-threatening wound.
Also late Sunday, police said someone pointed out a bag in the same park, where officers found loaded rifle magazines and Molotov cocktails. The shooting was not related to the items, police said.
Two blocks away, the several dozen federal law enforcement agents guarding the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse could hear the crowd of protesters — about 4,000 people at its peak.
“It’s scary. You open those doors out, when the crowd is shaking the fence, and … on the other side of that fence are people that want to kill you because of the job we chose to do and what we represent,” said a deputy U.S. Marshal who has been protecting the courthouse for weeks. He requested anonymity because protesters identified him previously and posted personal information about him online.
“I am worried for my life every time I walk outside of the building,” he said.