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Former DHS spokesman rips federal agents' presence in Portland

Former DHS spokesman rips federal agents' presence in Portland
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A former spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) wrote an op-ed Monday criticizing the Trump administration's response to the protests in Portland, Ore.

David Lapan, former DHS press secretary, called acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad WolfChad WolfLawmakers slam DHS watchdog following report calling for 'multi-year transformation' Intel heads to resume worldwide threats hearing scrapped under Trump Sunday shows preview: Democrats eye passage of infrastructure bill; health experts warn of fourth coronavirus wave MORE's decision to deploy federal agents "a dangerous step for DHS and for our democracy as a whole."

"In Portland, there are no military units active duty or National Guard currently involved. However, there is the perception of a military response—which is understandable, as DHS and other federal agencies have deployed law enforcement officers in military-style uniforms, wielding weapons associated with combat forces abroad," Lapan, who now serves as vice president of communications for the Bipartisan Policy Center, wrote.

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He added: "Their uniforms, equipment, and tactics have created the distinct appearance of yet another armed military response to protest and elements of civil unrest. Making matters worse, DHS’s leadership has indulged in harsh—indeed, militaristic—rhetoric in explaining and justifying its aggressive response. These actions, and others, are wrong, even dangerous."

Federal agents have been in Portland since late June to protect the federal buildings in the city's downtown area, specifically the Hatfield Federal Courthouse. The area around the courthouse has been the staging area for Black Lives Matter protests that have been a mainstay in the city since George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, died in Minneapolis police custody at the end of May. Protests have often escalated, leading to the courthouse being damaged.

However, the presence of the officers has not quelled the ferocity of the demonstrations, but rather the opposite; tear gas has become the officers' go-to weapon of choice in attempts to disperse crowds, and in return, protesters have thrown water bottles and other projectiles at the officers while frequently setting off fireworks toward the courthouse.

The federal occupation has drawn scorching criticism from Democratic lawmakers. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Oregon Gov. Kate BrownKate Brown74 people linked to COVID-19 outbreak at Oregon church Businesses sue Oregon governor over COVID-19 restrictions White House to shift how it distributes unallocated vaccines to states MORE have both made it clear that federal agents are not welcome in the city. Oregon's congressional delegation has also spoken out, and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiIncreasingly active younger voters liberalize US electorate Sunday shows preview: House GOP removes Cheney from leadership position; CDC issues new guidance for fully vaccinated Americans The Memo: Lawmakers on edge after Greene's spat with Ocasio-Cortez MORE (D-Calif.) has referred to the agents as "stormtroopers."

President TrumpDonald TrumpSunday shows preview: House GOP removes Cheney from leadership position; CDC issues new guidance for fully vaccinated Americans Navajo Nation president on Arizona's new voting restrictions: An 'assault' on our rights The Memo: Lawmakers on edge after Greene's spat with Ocasio-Cortez MORE and Wolf both doubled down on the presence of the officers last week, with Trump signaling that he would possibly be sending agents to additional "Democratic" cities.