Gov. Kate Brown Says Feds Have Agreed to “Phased Withdrawal” From Portland Starting Thursday

Oregon State Police will now provide “protection for free speech” and security around the federal courthouse.

Federal officers with DHS stand outside the federal courthouse on July 23, where protesters lobbed water bottles and other trash over the fence. (Alex Wittwer)

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced Wednesday morning that following discussions with Vice President Mike Pence, federal agents occupying the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse in Portland have agreed to a "phased withdrawal."

The withdrawal will begin Thursday, July 30. Brown said the federal agents will also clean up the building's exterior, which is covered with graffiti.

Since early July, officers from federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection's specialized BORTAC unit, have dispersed—and injured—protesters, who congregated around the 8-foot black fence that surrounds the courthouse. They have regularly deployed tear gas and fired munitions, sometimes directly at protesters' faces.

Their presence in Oregon garnered national criticism when Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that federal agents were snatching protesters into unmarked rental vans.

"These federal officers have acted as an occupying force, refused accountability, and brought violence and strife to our community," Brown said in a statement. "We have an opportunity that we cannot afford to waste. The departure of federal forces represents the beginning of a process that will be as difficult as it is overdue."

Oregon State Police will arrive at the building to "provide protection for free speech and the security of the exterior of the courthouse with the Federal Protective Service." A small contingent of year-round personnel who already occupied the federal courthouse will remain, Brown said.

Travis Hampton, superintendent of OSP, said his troopers would seek a different tone while guarding the courthouse.

"It is obvious the current strategy is not sustainable and has the high probability of serious injury or death, as officers and community members clash," Hampton wrote. "OSP hopes to deescalate the tensions around the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse, facilitating peaceful free speech and proportional response if criminal activity is observed."

Federal officials appeared noncommittal to the withdrawal terms Brown announced. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said federal officers wouldn't leave until he was confident protesters were no longer damaging the courthouse.

"We will maintain our current, augmented federal law enforcement personnel in Portland until we are assured that the Hatfield Federal Courthouse and other federal properties will no longer be attacked," Wolf wrote, "and that the seat of justice in Portland will remain secure….We're glad Oregon is now correcting their monthslong error."

President Donald Trump gave similarly combative statements in the White House's Rose Garden and on Twitter. As is often the case with the Trump administration, it was unclear to what degree the feds were spinning the deal for the media or publicly negotiating its terms.

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) expressed skepticism that the federal task force would in fact leave town.

"From Day One, I have pressed the Trump administration to withdraw its occupying army from my hometown," Wyden wrote. "I will watchdog today's announcement to ensure that it happens, and is not the administration's usual penchant for fiction. I'm especially concerned there's no specific timeline for a full withdrawal of Bill Barr and Donald Trump's minions. That's a loophole big enough to drive an armored personnel carrier through."

In her statement, Brown said she struck a deal with Trump to end dangerous confrontations. She said she expected protests to continue, and pledged to seek further reforms to Oregon's criminal justice system and racial inequities.

"I have grown increasingly concerned at the nightly confrontation between local community members and federal officers," Brown said. "We need to recognize that the protests in Portland are not solely about the federal presence. They started before federal agents descended on our city and they will likely continue after they leave."

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