The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) pushed back Wednesday on claims violence decreased in Portland due to a reduction in the federal presence there, arguing instead that the relative calm stemmed from state and local authorities “finally” doing their jobs.
On Tuesday, DHS issued a statement outlining what it called “myths” surrounding their agents’ effects on unrest in Oregon’s largest city and arguing the federal government’s presence hasn’t actually decreased at all.
“For nearly two months, DHS demanded cooperation with state and local law enforcement in Portland,” the statement read. “It wasn’t until DHS officers suffered more than 240 injuries that Oregon’s Governor finally agreed to do her job.”
“For those several long weeks as state and local officials put politics ahead of public safety, rioters knew that they could attack federal property and the officers defending it and then flee from the federal area of operations without any consequences from state or local law enforcement,” the statement continued. “Now that state and local leaders have finally agreed to step up and do their job, would-be rioters face the kind of coordinated enforcement response they should have been in place all along.”
The department has repeatedly attempted to counter what it claims are misleading reports from media outlets about their presence in Portland. For example, a recent Washington Post headline read: “Calm returns to Portland as federal agents withdraw.” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler have also tweeted media stories indicating that violence decreased in response to federal changes.
“Simply put,” the department said, “just because the media and others were not paying as much attention to Portland’s violence prior to the DHS surge doesn’t mean the violence wasn’t occurring.”
The department maintains that its agents are just less visible — and even that isn’t reponsible for the recent drop in violence.
“There has been no reduction in federal presence; federal law enforcement officers remain in Portland at augmented levels,” DHS said. “Reports and implications to the contrary are irresponsible and dishonest. DHS officers are working with a robust contingent of Oregon State Police (OSP) officers to secure the courthouse. OSP has been policing the property outside the fencing surrounding federal properties and has partnered with federal officers behind the fencing.”
Late Tuesday, rioters vandalized and broke into the Portland’s Police Association (PPA).
Hundreds of protesters marched to the office building on North Lombard Street near North Campbell Avenue and arrived at approximately 9:45 p.m., at which point police said they blocked “all lanes of traffic” at the intersection, according to information released by the department Wednesday morning. Police said a “large fire” was started on North Lombard Street soon after the group arrived at the PPA building.
Early Wednesday morning, around 12:30 a.m., a fight led to gunfire just one block from the PPA office. Shortly after, rioters forced their way into the police association’s office, where police said they damaged the property and “set fire to the building.” Police said several people have been arrested in connection with the events of Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, though additional details were not immediately available.
The Associated Press and Fox News’ Vandana Rambaran contributed to this report.