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 WolfICE acting director resigns weeks after assuming post Ex-DHS chief says Trump bears some responsibility for Capitol riots: 'What he says matters' Security concerns mount ahead of Biden inauguration 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 TrumpLil Wayne gets 11th hour Trump pardon Trump grants clemency to more than 100 people, including Bannon Trump expected to pardon Bannon: reports 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.
On Tuesday, several Democratic members of Oregon's congressional delegation wrote to Wolf and Attorney General William BarrBill BarrTwo-thirds say the election was fair: poll The Hill's Morning Report - An inauguration like no other Barr told Trump that theories about stolen election were 'bulls---': report MORE condemning the use of force by federal officers against protesters in Portland.

“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 WydenSenate Democrats call on Biden to immediately invoke Defense Production Act Yellen champions big spending at confirmation hearing Biden pick for Intel chief vows to release report on Khashoggi killing MORE and Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleySenate Democrats make democracy reform first bill of new majority Senate Democrats leery of nixing filibuster Biden and the new Congress must protect Americans from utility shutoffs MORE and Reps. Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerInauguration parties lose the glitz and glamour in 2021 Four things Democrats should do in Biden's first 100 days House Republican wants restrictions on masks with messages MORE and Suzanne BonamiciSuzanne Marie BonamiciLawmakers condemn Trump's 'destabilizing' and 'politicizing' moves on climate assessment OVERNIGHT 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 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.