UPDATE (June 23, 10:26 a.m. PT) — Federal agents Thursday morning arrested eight protesters involved in the occupation outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement building in Southwest Portland.
At around 5:30 a.m., federal law enforcement agents began an initiative to reopen the Portland ICE building, which has been closed due to an occupation by protesters for more than a week. Protesters have said they want ICE out of Portland.
Department of Homeland Security officers were focused on clearing the entrance of the building. A DHS spokesperson says the goal is to reopen the office, which has been closed since Wednesday, June 20.
Agents created a human barrier to keep protesters back while they packed belongings that obstructed the building’s entrance. Signs, furniture and clothing could be seen inside a U-Haul.
Seven protesters were each charged with a misdemeanor for failing to clear the entrance to the ICE building. An eighth person was charged with interfering with a peace officer. They were temporarily detained, cited by Federal Protective Services and released. Federal agents later said they had detained and were processing one more person. DHS said people charged in the incident are scheduled to appear in court Sept. 7.
Robert Sperling, a spokesperson with DHS, said agents are focused on clearing the federally-leased property. That does not include the backside of the building, where a sprawling tent encampment remains. Sperling says federal officials are looking into possibly re-opening the office next week.
Ben Dorfman, a protester who has been sleeping at the camp for about three or four days, said he was woken up at around 5:30 a.m. by a person who came inside his tent and said law enforcement had arrived.
“I think their priority right now is to get us off the ICE property so that the ICE building can continue to function, get people going in and out,” Dorfman said.
“I don’t think they’re going to try and tear this whole thing down.”
Protesters described waking up to a loud camp siren sound around 5:30 a.m., which alerted them to the action and chaos that followed.
“I witnessed several others, including females, being tackled, thrown on their faces on the concrete, screaming and crying after being hauled off and cuffed,” said a protester named Christian, who declined to provide his last name.
“They surprisingly gave us the option to leave, I said ‘yes’ and hopped over the fence,” he said.
Protesters were seen dismantling their own encampment while DHS officers monitored them.
The Portland Police Bureau provided traffic control along SW Macadam Avenue, the main roadway affected by federal law enforcement action at the ICE building. Sgt. Chris Burley, public information officer with the PPB, said the bureau stopped providing traffic control at approximately 8:10 a.m.
“In line with the Mayor and Police Commissioner’s directions, the Police Bureau was not involved in the Federal Protective Services (FPS) actions as it related to Occupy ICE PDX,” Burley said in an email. “Portland Police Bureau officers recognized the need to assist motorists in identifying alternative routes around road closures due to actions related to Occupy ICE PDX.”
DHS said in an email that the goal is to reopen 4310 SW Macadam Ave. facility. That facility has been closed for more than a week due to the occupation which began on Sunday, June 17 with just a few protesters and two tents. It quickly grew into a mini protest village.
In a press release, protesters described a number of tactics they said federal agents used to try to intimidate them, including playing loud “dad-rock” music and placing cut-outs in the in the windows of the ICE building.
The protesters objected to Portland Police officers diverting traffic outside the ICE facility.
“The involvement of PPB in this Federal attempt at a raid raises serious questions surrounding Portland’s supposed dedication to immigrant rights, safety and security from state violence,” they said.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said the city’s police officers did not participate in any effort to remove protesters from the site. He said their actions were limited to directing traffic after federal police blocked the roadway.
“I join those outraged by ICE actions separating parents from their children, and support peaceful protest to give voice to our collective moral conscience,” he said.
Portland City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly said her office is coordinating with Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office to get clarity on the city’s role in DHS’ actions. She said city officials are also coordinating with Oregon’s congressional delegation to get additional information on the situation.
“I have unwavering support for the protesters,” Eudaly told OPB. “Portland is a Sanctuary City and we are going to act like one. I’ll share additional information as soon as I have it. For now, I encourage everyone on the scene to document interactions as much as they can to hold DHS accountable.”