Federal Officers and Portland Police Simultaneously Dispersed Protesters Last Night

Local cops now say feds won’t be allowed in the incident command center.

A naked protester stands off with federal officers in downtown Portland. (Alex Wittwer)

Federal police and Portland officers worked in tandem early Saturday morning to clear protesters from the streets of Portland. The two agencies appeared to coordinate their efforts by announcing when they would use force to scatter demonstrators.

That simultaneous effort triggered a demand from City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty this morning that Mayor Ted Wheeler either control his Police Bureau or hand oversight of the city's cops to her. Wheeler has yet to respond.

The Oregonian compiled a list today of previous incidents where local and federal police appeared to coordinate their response to protesters. Such an effort undercuts Wheeler's assertion that he doesn't want federal officers deployed by President Donald Trump in this city—as do meetings between local cops and the feds.

This afternoon, the Portland Police Bureau issued a statement that federal officers would no longer be allowed inside the Portland police command center. "Beginning tonight," a police statement said, "command from the Federal Protective Service will not work in the Portland police incident command center."

Deputy Chief Chris Davis first disclosed July 9 that a federal officer was admitted to the command center. The issue surfaced again Friday in a legislative hearing, first reported by The Oregonian.

Any coordination between local and federal officers becomes even more fraught today, following a New York Times report that revealed an internal Homeland Security memo that said federal officers deployed to Portland lacked sufficient training in crowd control.

On July 18, Portland police issued a command at 1:32 am for protesters to disperse, using a long-range acoustic device mounted outside the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse. The message told protesters they had five minutes to leave before police would use force.

That message was sufficiently loud for federal officers inside the courthouse to hear. Indeed, soon after Portland police began sweeping protesters west, federal officers emerged from the courthouse and moved another crowd northward.

The federal officers used tear gas around 1:40 am. That's something Portland police are restricted from doing by court order and a new state law.

Portland police today said the crowd control tactics were independent: "As Portland police performed their work," the bureau statement says, "other law enforcement officers, including some from federal agencies, took action as well, under their own supervision and direction."

The federal officers also used tear gas on the crowd earlier in the night, around 10 pm on July 17. The federal use of gas has been prolific, including the use of a medieval-looking smoke-spewing device that officers carry on chains, like a religious censer.

Update, 7:25 pm Sunday, July 19:

Wheeler issued a brief statement on Saturday night, saying he made the decision to eject a Federal Protective Service staffer from the Portland police incident command center.

"Earlier today I directed that staff who are part of federal agency operations are no longer allowed to co-locate with the police bureau's incident command," Wheeler said. "While sharing a space helped facilitate clear communication, based on recent actions by federal law enforcement officers I am not comfortable having them in our space."

The mayor has yet to directly respond to Hardesty's demand that he control the Police Bureau or hand it to her, although his statement could be considered an oblique reply.

Here are more photos from Friday night's protest and dispersal:

A federal officer uses a smoke pot on a pole to deploy gas. (Alex Wittwer)
Protesters wore medieval armor to face off with federal police. (Alex Wittwer)
A protester hurls a flare toward police lines. (Alex Wittwer)
A firework set off by protesters at the Multnomah County Justice Center. (Alex Wittwer)
An officer makes an arrest in downtown Portland. (Alex Wittwer)
Federal officers clear protesters from downtown Portland. (Alex Wittwer)

Correction: This post incorrectly stated that Portland police had not previously disclosed the presence of a federal officer in the incident command center. It was first disclosed July 9.

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