Homeland Security chief says federal agents 'will not retreat' from Portland

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad WolfChad WolfSenate to hold nomination hearing for Wolf next week Hillicon Valley: FBI chief says Russia is trying to interfere in election to undermine Biden | Treasury Dept. sanctions Iranian government-backed hackers Democrats slam DHS chief for defying subpoena for testimony on worldwide threats MORE said federal agents in Portland “will not retreat” as law enforcement grapples with demonstrations and violent protests in Oregon’s biggest city. 

At a press conference Tuesday, Wolf staunchly defended the Department of Homeland Security’s mission in Portland amid criticism over reports of officers in unmarked vehicles arresting demonstrators without identifying themselves.

“What is occurring in Portland in the early hours of every morning is not peaceful protesting,” Wolf said. “We have been forced because of local law enforcement presence to take measures such as arrests to protect our officials.”

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“While I look forward to the day that our officers are redeployed back to their regular day-to-day mission, we will not shrink from our duty because of this violence,” he added. “If you are a violent rioter looking to inflict damage to federal property or law enforcement officers, you need to find another line of work.” 

“We will not retreat. We will continue to protect our facilities and our law enforcement officers,” Wolf said.

The remarks come as local officials request that the Department of Homeland Security withdraw after videos of protesters being snatched off the street by officers in unmarked cars sparked outrage. 

Wolf defended the officers in the city, denying they are inadequately identified and refuting claims the officials are from the military.

“The smear attacks leveled against our officers is disgusting. As it relates to [Customs and Border Protection] officers deployed in Portland, these highly trained officers are in multi-camouflage wear because they work on the southwest border and they work in an environment that demands that. That is their everyday uniform, and it is completely appropriate. They have insignia on their uniforms that read 'police,' and they have patches ... that indicate which agency they are from,” he said.

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“They are civilian police officers. These police officers are not stormtroopers,” he continued, adding he is “ready” to withdraw officers “if the violence stops.” 

Portland is one of several cities that have been rocked by demonstrations against systemic racism and police brutality in response to the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died in Minneapolis police custody in May. 

While many of the protests across the country have remained peaceful, some demonstrations in Portland have led to clashes between demonstrators and federal law enforcement officers, which have responded to projectiles with tear gas.