Word of possible action by federal agents hoping to clear a protest encampment encircling the temporarily shuttered Immigration and Customs Enforcement building in Portland prompted occupiers to activate a “code red” Tuesday night.
Protestors with walky-talkies stood as look-outs at multiple points around the encampment, notifying one another of Portland Police patrol cars or suspicious activity. They shared markers, writing National Lawyers Guild phone numbers on their arms in case of arrest.
Others hammered away at a barrier before placing it at one of the main entrances into a tent camp that once took up a corner but now encompasses the entire backside of the ICE office building.
Nothing became of the rumors of “imminent action” by federal agents hoping to have the place cleared. On Monday, officers from the Federal Protective Service began notifying protesters that they must leave.
Now in their 11th day of protest, occupiers have everything from a medical tent to an activity tent, and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office insists the mayor — who’s on vacation abroad for the next two weeks — stands by his direction to Portland Police to steer clear of conflict involving a federal agency’s property.
“In terms of directing strategy, he was clear in his previous remarks,” said Michael Cox, Wheeler’s deputy chief of staff.
“He does not want the Portland Police Bureau to be drawn into a conflict with a federal agency on their property with their own police force.”
Still, there was news to back protestors’ vigilant posture Tuesday night; 10 people were arrested outside of the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, during a protest involving 160 people that same night. Protestors in Portland continue to operate under the hovering threat of arrest and prosecution by federal officials for blocking the entrances into the ICE office.
Nearly two dozen calls have been made to Portland Police related to the encampment. Several were noise complaints; another was a call about assault. In that instance, which occurred June 21, a complainant said they were assaulted by three subjects at the protest. The complainant, who was in a motorized wheelchair, said the subjects were messing with her chair and hitting her in the head. Portland Police say the investigation into that incident remains open.
On Wednesday, protestors descended upon Portland City Hall. They say they want ICE out of Portland.
Cox says the police, meanwhile, will continue to respond to calls for service or life-threatening issues in the area.
For now, the signs plastered around the ICE building remain. One of them read: “I need a tent.”
OPB’s Amelia Templeton contributed to this report.