Portland Officials Threaten to Fine Feds for Courthouse Fence—It’s Blocking a Bike Lane

Federal officials responded to protesters Wednesday by installing a metal fence supported by concrete jersey barriers.

Protesters gather outside a fence surrounding the federal courthouse. (Wesley Lapointe)

Portland city attorneys sent a July 22 cease-and-desist letter to the federal agency that oversees a downtown courthouse, threatening fines for erecting a metal fence that keeps out protesters—and also blocks a bicycle lane.

"Unidentified agents of the federal government have placed unpermitted fencing and jersey barriers in the city's right of way outside of the Hatfield Federal Courthouse," says the letter from Chief Deputy City Attorney Robert Taylor. "The fencing and barriers in the right of way create a hazard for Portlanders by blocking the bike lane on Southwest Main [Street], which is the premier bike facility into downtown Portland."

President Donald Trump's deployment of federal officers to Portland has increased vandalism at the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse, which demonstrators now treat as a castle to be stormed each night. Federal officials responded Wednesday by installing a metal fence supported by concrete jersey barriers. (Oregon Public Broadcasting reported today that the fence cost taxpayers $200,000 and could remain in place until 2021.)

The fence sits in the middle of a sacred Portland space: a bike lane.

The city attorney's letter was written on behalf of the Portland Bureau of Transportation. In his own letter to the U.S. General Services Administration, the PBOT director says the fence is a safety hazard for cyclists.

"The structure completely obstructs the bike lane and needs to be removed promptly," writes PBOT director Chris Warner. "Failure to remove will constitute a Class I violation of City Code and Transportation Administrative Rules designed to protect the safety of the traveling public and will be subject to fines and potential legal action."

PBOT is overseen by Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, among the most vociferous local critics of the federal presence. In a statement, she said her office was looking for any means to undercut the federal agents' continued stay.

"This fence was constructed without permission or permits on public property, and it is both an abuse of public space and a threat to the traveling public,"  Eudaly wrote. "This illegal action will not be tolerated in our community.…I have instructed PBOT to closely monitor the federal occupiers' actions for additional violations."

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