Politics

Portland sends federal government $528,000 fine over courthouse fence

By Conrad Wilson (OPB)
Portland, Ore. Aug. 5, 2020 4:57 p.m. Updated: Aug. 5, 2020 7:01 p.m.

The fines will increase by $48,000 for every day the fence stays up.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation said fines over the fence erected outside the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse in downtown Portland topped $528,000, according to a letter sent Monday and obtained by OPB. The letter also states fines will increase by $48,000 every 24 hours the fence stays up.

The fence is blocking a bike lane “creating a hazard to the public” and the federal government still hasn’t applied for permits, PBOT director Chris Warner wrote. The city continues to assess a fine of $500 every 15 minutes. it remains in place.

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The fight over the fence is another indication that relations between city government and federal agencies have degraded because of the protests. On July 22, Portland banned its officers from communicating with federal law enforcement.

Related: Human rights group finds violations by federal law enforcement in Portland

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security installed the “anti-personnel security fence” on July 18, when it still had officers deployed on Portland streets to police protests around the federal building.

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A protester stacks pieces of fence in front of the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse on July 18, 2020. The federal police presence has galvanized protesters, bringing out a larger group than on recent nights.

A protester stacks pieces of fence in front of the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse on July 18, the day it was installed. The Portland Bureau of Transportation has fined the federal government more than $500,000 because the fence blocks a bike lane.

Jonathan Levinson / OPB

A recently obtained document by OPB shows the federal government sees the fence as crucial to its presence in Portland, which — according to the acquisition form — could last into 2021. According to the July 14 document justifying a sole source vendor, the federal government plans to rent the fence for three to six months. The taxpayer price tag for the long term rental amounts to an estimated $208,400.

On July 23, PBOT sent the federal government a letter requesting it immediately remove the fence and clear the right of way.

Related: With federal law enforcement gone, Oregon electeds must focus on protest demands

“Further, the fencing and barriers installed around the Federal Courthouse do not provide for an accessible path from streets, sidewalks and public transportation stops to the buildings, nor do they provide an alternate path of travel, specifically for people with disabilities,” Warner wrote.

Portland Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, who is running for reelection this fall, oversees PBOT. She sponsored the July 22 resolution preventing local and federal cooperation. Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell and federal law enforcement officers have criticized the resolution because they say the lack of communication creates a dangerous situation during policing operations.

Last week, Gov. Kate Brown struck a deal with the federal government to bring Oregon State Police in to guard the federal courthouse. Brown’s chief of staff said the fence would come down as part of that agreement.

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