Federal officers use gas to clear protesters in Portland
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Federal officers deployed tear gas and fired less-lethal rounds into a crowd of protesters in Oregon, hours after the the head of the Department of Homeland Security visited Portland and called the demonstrators “violent anarchists.”
Also Sen. Jeff Merkley and others sharply criticized federal authorities following reports that federal law enforcement was using unmarked vehicles to arrest and detain protesters. Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that federal officers were detaining people who weren’t near federal property.
“Authoritarian governments, not democratic republics, send unmarked authorities after protesters,” Merkley, a Democrat, said in a Tweet.
Video showed many protesters leaving the area near the federal courthouse late Thursday as smoke filled the air. Protests have taken place for nearly two months in Portland, since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.
During a visit to Portland earlier Thursday, Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf said state and city authorities are to blame for not putting an end to the protests, angering local officials.
Mayor Ted Wheeler and other local officials have said they didn’t ask for help from federal law enforcement and have asked them to leave.
A few hundred people had gathered near the federal courthouse Thursday night, news outlets reported. Police told protesters to leave after announcing they heard some chanting about burning down the building, according to The Oregonian.
A short time later, federal officers fired rounds and deployed tear gas to break up the crowd. Some protesters remained in the area early Friday and were detained, but it was unclear whether any arrests were made, the newspaper reported.
Homeland Security acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli said Friday morning on “Fox & Friends” that the federal government has a responsibility to protect buildings such as the courthouse.
“What we’ve seen around the country is where responsible policing is advanced, violence recedes,” Cuccinelli said. “And Portland hasn’t gotten that memo. Nor have a lot of other cities. And the president is determined to do what we can, within our jurisdiction, to help restore peace to these beleaguered cities.”
President Donald Trump recently sent the federal officers to the city. Tensions have escalated in the past two weeks, particularly after an officer with the U.S. Marshals Service fired a less-lethal round at a protester’s head on July 11, critically injuring him.
The protests in Oregon’s largest city following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis have often devolved into violent clashes between smaller groups and the police. The unrest has caused deep divisions in a city that prides itself on its activism and progressive reputation.