Arrests of Portland Protesters Drop Sharply After Federal Agents Withdraw

Arrests of protesters in Portland have plummeted sharply since federal agents started leaving the city.

Federal agents had made 94 arrests since their arrival in the city over the July 4th weekend, Homeland Security's Acting Secretary Chad Wolf said during a news conference last Wednesday.

After an agreement was struck with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, federal agents began a phased withdrawal and state and local police took over guarding the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse.

The building had been the site of weeks of escalating tensions after federal agents repeatedly emerged to disperse protesters using heavy-handed tactics, including tear gas and less lethal munitions. wot

But since their retreat last week, protests remained calm for three straight nights with little or no involvement from law enforcement—and the numbers of people arrested have plummeted.

On Wednesday night, before state police arrived to take over guarding the courthouse, the DHS said it made four arrests—three for assaulting federal officers and one for failure to comply with a lawful order.

But the following night, after federal agents began their withdrawal, no arrests were made and demonstrations didn't end with tear gas or munitions fired.

Hundreds of people gathered for a demonstration outside the federal courthouse on Thursday night that ended without the involvement of local police, the Portland Police Bureau said.

"At times people lit small fires along sidewalks on surrounding blocks and attempted to light fires inside the fence at the federal courthouse," the force said in a news release.

"Others in the crowd put the fires out. Some people climbed on or near the fence at the federal courthouse, but others admonished them and they got down. People could be heard in the crowd repeating that the protest was to remain peaceful."

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said federal agents made no arrests on Thursday night.

"Federal and state officers located inside the courthouse were not forced to leave the building during the course of the night—a stark difference from previous nights —and DHS officers made no arrests," the agency said.

Hundreds converged outside the courthouse again on Friday night, but the crowd remained "subdued," police said.

A line of protesters blocks the street in front of the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse during a Black Lives Matter protest on August 2, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. Nathan Howard/Getty Images

Police said some people started a bonfire in front of the federal courthouse, but the crowd dwindled in the early hours of Saturday and police didn't interact with the group. The DHS also said its officers made no arrests that night.

But on Saturday night, after protesters directed their focus towards local policing once again, protesters and police clashed for the first time since the withdrawal of federal law enforcement.

The Portland Police Bureau said they declared an unlawful assembly and made two arrests after protesters gathered outside a police precinct and threw bottles at officers.

Around 200 people had marched from Laurelhurst Park to the Penumbra Kelly Building, where they shone bright lights and lasers at police officers and threw glass bottles, according to a police news release.

A person in the crowd threw a glass jar or bottle filled with paint, striking an officer in the head, police said. The officer was not injured.

Police said two people from Portland were arrested as they worked to disperse the crowd.

Max Van Briesen, 31, was booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center on charges including assaulting a public safety officer, interfering with a police officer and disorderly conduct.

Freedom Moreno, 34, was charged with interfering with a police officer, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and harassment.

But the scene outside the federal courthouse was very different, police said.

Much of the crowd outside the building marched through downtown Portland and the Pearl District and diminished over the course of two hours. "The march was peaceful and Portland Police did not interact with the crowd of people downtown," police added.

Captain Timothy Fox, with the Oregon State Police, told Newsweek that troopers had made zero arrests since they were called in.

Protests against police brutality have taken place for more than 60 consecutive nights in Portland since the death of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis police custody in May.

Over the July 4 weekend, the Trump administration deployed federal agents to the city in a bid to quell the unrest and protect federal property.

But their presence galvanized protesters and drew bigger crowds outside the federal courthouse while local and state officials slammed federal agents for inflaming tensions further.

The Department of Homeland Security has been contacted for comment.

This article has been updated with information from Oregon State Police.