Federal officers use tear gas on protesters at federal courthouse in Portland

Federal officers use tear gas on protesters at federal courthouse in Portland
© KOIN

Federal officers on Sunday used tear gas for the second consecutive night to disperse protesters gathered outside a federal courthouse in Portland, as demonstrations escalated in the city in response to the Trump administration's deployment of federal law enforcement agencies.

Video captured by KOIN, a local CBS affiliate, showed officers dispersing crowds gathered outside the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse on Sunday night. The news station noted that the officers directed tear gas as well as other crowd-control munitions towards the demonstrators. 

The Portland Police Department said in a statement Monday that federal law enforcement dispersed a crowd of hundreds of protesters after some people pulled down a fence blocking access to the front of the courthouse.

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The department said that "dozens of people with shields, helmets, gas masks, umbrellas, bats, and hockey sticks approached the doors of the courthouse" after 11 p.m., leading federal officials to intervene. 

"Federal law enforcement came out of the courthouse at about 11:50 p.m. and dispersed the crowd," the police said. 

The statement noted that hundreds of people wandered around downtown Portland in the hours after the tear gas incident. After 1 a.m., a group of people lit a fire within the portico in front of the federal courthouse, police said, causing federal officers to exit the courthouse and disperse the crowd. Officers also extinguished the fire.

Portland Police acknowledged in a separate statement that federal officers used CS gas in the area surrounding the courthouse. Police said that no city officers engaged with protesters. 

The events Sunday came as protests in Portland become the source of increasing tensions between local officials and the Trump administration. Federal agencies were dispatched to Portland earlier this month as Trump vowed to protect federal property and monuments as protests swept the nation. In Portland, protests speaking out about racial injustice and police brutality have stretched on for 52 consecutive days. 

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In Oregon, the presence of federal law enforcement has been met with intense pushback. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said Sunday that the city wants federal law enforcement to leave, arguing that their presence is only escalating unrest. 

“Their presence here is actually leading to more violence and more vandalism, and it’s not helping the situation at all. They're not wanted here, we haven't asked them here. In fact, we want them to leave,” the mayor said on CNN's "State of The Union."

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (D) has also sued several federal agencies, accusing them of being involved in the illegal detaining of citizens without probable cause. The lawsuit specifically cites the July 16 case of Mark Pettibone, who was detained by undercover agents in military fatigues and pulled into an unmarked minivan while he was walking down the sidewalk.

House Democratic leaders on Sunday called for inspectors general at the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to investigate the actions of federal law enforcement in Portland. 

"Reports from Oregon this week make clear that this misuse of resources and personnel remains a growing threat," the lawmakers wrote. 

Trump, meanwhile, has defended federal agencies' presence in Portland. He tweeted Sunday that “we are trying to help Portland, not hurt it" and claimed that city leadership was to blame for the unrest. 

“Their leadership has, for months, lost control of the anarchists and agitators. They are missing in action," he said. "We must protect Federal property, AND OUR PEOPLE. These were not merely protesters, these are the real deal!” 

Portland police on Saturday declared protests outside the federal courthouse a riot after a group of people broke into the Portland Police Association office and ignited a fire. Several people in the crowd were arrested and officers were able to distinguish the fire. 

The Associated Press noted that tear gas was deployed as officers tried to disperse the protesters. Portland Police did not use any CS gas, they said.