Federal officers who have clashed violently with demonstrators on Portland streets for weeks will begin to depart the city on Thursday, under a deal between the Trump administration and Gov. Kate Brown’s office that was announced Wednesday morning.
In exchange for a phased removal of federal officers brought in to protect federal property in the city, Brown’s office has agreed to help guard against vandalism of the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse using state resources alongside the Federal Protective Service.
“After discussions with the Vice President and administration officials this week, the federal government has agreed to my demand and will withdraw these officers from Portland,” Brown said in a statement Wednesday. “They will also clean up the Courthouse, removing the graffiti.”
Brown added Oregon state troopers would “provide protection for free speech and the security of the exterior of the courthouse with the Federal Protective Service. A limited contingent of federal officials, who act as building security year-round, will remain and will stay focused on the interior of the U.S. Courthouse.”
Officers with Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement would depart downtown Portland beginning Thursday, Brown said. OPB reported such a deal was likely in the works earlier Wednesday.
Department of Homeland Secretary acting Secretary Chad Wolf struck a different tone in his announcement of the deal, noting the agency would “continue to re-evaluate” the situation in Portland before withdrawing.
”The Department will continue to maintain our current, augmented federal law enforcement personnel in Portland until we are assured that the Hatfield Federal Courthouse and other federal properties will no longer be attacked,” Wolf said. “Should circumstances on the ground significantly improve due to the influx of state and local law enforcement, we anticipate the ability to change our force posture.”
The deal is a remarkable turnaround in a standoff between the Trump administration and Oregon officials. For weeks, federal officers have used tear gas, impact rounds, flash bangs and batons to crack down on demonstrations that have swelled in opposition to their presence.
But even as elected officials at all levels of government called on the federal force to withdraw, the Trump administration repeatedly insisted the influx was necessary to protect against what it has depicted as “violent mobs.” As recently as last weekend federal authorities were considering stepping up their law enforcement presence in the face of protests that have shown no sign of abating.
In a statement, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said the “federal occupation” has brought fear to the city’s streets.
“Federal agents nearly killed a demonstrator, and their presence has led to increased violence and vandalism in our downtown core,” he said. “The daily coverage of their actions has distracted our community from the Black voices at the center of this movement, and the urgent work of reform.”
Wheeler oversees the Portland Police Bureau and has also faced significant criticism from demonstrators, who regularly call for his resignation at protests. That’s in part because the PPB has regularly used tear gas and crowd control weapons to disperse protests in ways similar to federal officers.
Still, Wheeler said the City Council is focused on racial justice and has already diverted millions of dollars from the PPB. On Wednesday, the Council will consider referring a ballot measure to voters that would create a new police oversight system, enshrined in the city charter and independent from any elected office or city bureau.
Federal officers have arrested more than 90 people since early July. Most of the people who have been criminally charged face misdemeanors. Wolf claimed Monday many federal law enforcement officers have been injured policing the protests.
By removing federal law enforcement, it could deescalate tensions between Oregon’s Democratic officials and the Trump White House, which until now have refused to work together.
Despite the rhetoric on all sides, indications emerged recently that a deal could be in the works. Brown’s office acknowledged Tuesday evening they were in “very serious discussions” with administration officials over pulling out federal forces. And multiple sources told OPB that senior officials in both the FBI and Department of Homeland Security had flown to Portland on Monday to meet with state officials.
Federal officers moved into Portland in early July, after President Trump issued an executive order aimed at protecting federal property. Before long, the stepped-up presence — combined with high-profile incidents of officers injuring and detaining demonstrators — lit a fire under protests against police violence that had been losing steam.
Oregon State Police Superintendent Travis Hampton said on social media, starting Thursday, his troopers will enter into a two-week rotation in Portland to work with federal law enforcement and the Portland Police Bureau. He said the goal is to again de-escalate tensions outside the federal courthouse.
“OSP hopes to develop an atmosphere that affords the removal of the protective fence and restore a semblance of normalcy, while meeting community expectations and our obligations to protect the federal property,” Hampton said. “It is obvious the current strategy is not sustainable and has the high probability of serious injury or death, as officers and community members clash.”