Federal agents who have clashed with protesters in Portland, Oregon, will begin a “phased withdrawal” from the state’s largest city, governor Kate Brown has said.
Acting homeland security secretary Chad Wolf said the plan negotiated with Ms Brown over the last 24 hours includes a “robust presence” of Oregon State Police in Portland city centre.
After my discussions with VP Pence and others, the federal government has agreed to withdraw federal officers from Portland. They have acted as an occupying force & brought violence. Starting tomorrow, all Customs and Border Protection & ICE officers will leave downtown Portland.
— Governor Kate Brown (@OregonGovBrown) July 29, 2020
Mr Wolf said: “State and local law enforcement will begin securing properties and streets, especially those surrounding federal properties, that have been under nightly attack for the past two months.”
The agents will begin leaving the city centre on Thursday, Ms Brown said.
Before departing for a trip to Texas, US President Donald Trump insisted federal troops would not leave Portland until local authorities “secured their city”.
“Either they’re gonna clean up Portland soon, or the federal government is going up, and we’re gonna do it for them. So either they clean out Portland – the governor and the mayor, who are weak – either they clean out Portland or we’re gong in to do it for them,” he said.
The US Marshals Service and Department of Homeland Security had been considering this week whether to send in more agents. The marshals were taking steps to identify up to 100 additional personnel who could go in case they were needed to relieve or supplement the deputy marshals who work in Oregon, spokesman Drew Wade said.
The nightly Portland protests began after George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police and have grown to include the presence of federal agents in Portland and other Democratic cities.
They often spiral into violence as demonstrators target the US courthouse in Oregon’s largest city with rocks, fireworks and laser pointers. Federal agents respond with tear gas, less-lethal ammunition and arrests.
Protesters have tried almost every night to tear down a fence erected to protect the building, set fires in the street and hurled fireworks, Molotov cocktails and bricks, rocks and bottles at the agents inside. Authorities this week reinforced the fence by putting concrete highway barriers around it.
Demonstrators near the courthouse were met before dawn with tear gas, pepper balls and impact munitions fired by agents, the Oregonian newspaper reported.