Former DHS spokesman rips federal agents' presence in Portland

Former DHS spokesman rips federal agents' presence in Portland
© Getty Images

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 WolfBiden picks first Latino to lead Homeland Security Republican senators urge Trump to label West Bank goods as 'Made in Israel' Judge says acting DHS secretary appointment unlawful, invalidates DACA suspension 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.


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 BrownOregon governor urges hosts to 'uninvite' guests Say 'no thanks' to Thanksgiving mandates The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Dems push McConnell on COVID-19 relief; Grassley contracts COVID-19 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 PelosiGovernors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation MORE (D-Calif.) has referred to the agents as "stormtroopers."

President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSAID administrator tests positive for COVID-19 Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year DOJ appeals ruling preventing it from replacing Trump in E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit 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.