DHS head knocks 'failed response' to 'rampant' violence in Portland

DHS head knocks 'failed response' to 'rampant' violence in Portland
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Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad WolfChad WolfTravel industry calls on Trump administration to prevent the need for quarantines by creating a testing plan Voting rights group files suit against Trump, administration officials alleging voter intimidation Business groups, universities file lawsuit over new rules targeting H-1B visas MORE on Thursday lambasted the city of Portland, Ore., for its handling of protests that dominated its downtown area since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the end of May.

Wolf described protesters as a "violent mob" and "lawless anarchists" who "destroy and desecrate property," citing damage that has been done to the Hatfield Federal Courthouse.

“A federal courthouse is a symbol of justice — to attack it is to attack America," Wolf said in a statement. "Instead of addressing violent criminals in their communities, local and state leaders are instead focusing on placing blame on law enforcement and requesting fewer officers in their community. This failed response has only emboldened the violent mob as it escalates violence day after day."


Federal officers, deployed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), have occupied the courthouse and other nearby buildings for the past couple of weeks in an effort to minimize the damage done to federal property and keep protesters in check.

Over the weekend, one demonstrator was reportedly left in critical condition after being struck in the head with nonlethal ammunition by a federal officer.

Forces used nonlethal rounds and tear gas to disperse protests who had gathered around the courthouse. One federal officer was assaulted by a protester with a hammer, and other activists blocked surrounding streets, lit fires and fired off fireworks towards the courthouse.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler (D) has been critical of the federal presence during the unrest.

"I told the Acting Secretary that my biggest immediate concern is the violence federal officers brought to our streets in recent days, and the life-threatening tactics his agents use. We do not need or want their help," Wheeler tweeted on Tuesday.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpFox News president, top anchors advised to quarantine after coronavirus exposure: report Six notable moments from Trump and Biden's '60 Minutes' interviews Biden on attacks on mental fitness: Trump thought '9/11 attack was 7/11 attack' MORE has repeatedly threatened to send federal forces into the cities that have been gripped by demonstrations in the months since Floyd's death, condemning the protesters as anarchists and looters.

“In recent weeks, the federal government has deployed to Portland a number of DOJ and DHS officers. This politically driven federal response is intolerable,” the group of Democrats wrote. “The apparent lack of operational coordination between agencies, departments, and offices, and the violence perpetrated by federal personnel is particularly concerning. Their presence and lack of coordination raises urgent concerns about how those engaging in illegal use of force against demonstrators will be held accountable.”


The letter was signed by Oregon Sens. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenPlaintiff and defendant from Obergefell v. Hodges unite to oppose Barrett's confirmation Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing House Democrats slam FCC chairman over 'blatant attempt to help' Trump MORE and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyGOP clears key hurdle on Barrett's Supreme Court nomination, setting up Monday confirmation Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Trump, Biden renew push for Latino support MORE and Reps. Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerRestaurants brace for long COVID-19 winter Ahead of a coronavirus vaccine, Mexico's drug pricing to have far-reaching impacts on Americans Trump threatens to double down on Portland in other major cities MORE and Suzanne BonamiciSuzanne Marie BonamiciOVERNIGHT ENERGY:  House passes sweeping clean energy bill | Pebble Mine CEO resigns over secretly recorded comments about government officials  | Corporations roll out climate goals amid growing pressure to deliver Pelosi, Blumenaur condemn 'egregious abuses of power' by Trump against Oregon protestors Federal agents deployed to Portland did not have training in riot control: NYT MORE.

On Wednesday, protesters attempted to create their own autonomous zone, similar to the one that existed for several weeks in Seattle, setting up tents and barricades in Lownsdale Square Park and Chapman Square Park, adjacent parks located across the street from the courthouse. 

Early Thursday morning, Portland police closed the parks down, driving protesters out of the area.

"The parks will remain closed until needed repairs are made and the parks are ready to reopen for all to enjoy," the police department said in a statement. "The Police Bureau will assist other City bureaus to facilitate park closure and repair to lawns, bathrooms, benches and public art."

The police said that some arrests had been made when clearing out the parks. Video footage of one of the arrests shows a police officer tackling a protester riding a bike.

Police said that more details regarding the arrests would be released when available.