Federal Government Owes Portland $200k 'And Counting' Over Courthouse Fence: 'We Intend to Collect'

The city of Portland, Oregon, is fining the federal government $500 every 15 minutes until it removes a fence erected without permission to protect a federal courthouse that's become a flashpoint during nightly protests. Currently, the bill is almost $200,000 "and counting."

Portland City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly said she had directed the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) to file a cease-and-desist order over the fence last week.

The barrier was put up by federal forces around the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse to protect the building, but Eudaly said it is obstructing a portion of SW Third Avenue.

The federal government has yet to respond to the demand, she said on Twitter Tuesday.

Yes, I am afraid to direct workers to do their job and enforce our laws against the federal government—I hope that gives everyone reading this pause.

As of yesterday, the federal government owes us $192,000 and counting. We intend to collect.

— Commissioner Eudaly (@ChloeEudalyPDX) July 28, 2020

Under the PBOT's right-of-way use enforcement program, it can levy a $500 fine for obstructing the public right way without a permit and charge that amount either every 15 minutes, hourly, daily, weekly or monthly depending on the violation. Eudaly said she opted to impose the maximum fine.

"We are assessing the maximum fine of $500 for every 15 minutes the fence obstructs our street," Eudaly said, adding that the city was also "investigating other legal remedies."

The federal government "owes us $192,000 and counting," Eudaly noted. "We intend to collect," she added.

Eudaly said that in such situations, the city would typically send a crew to remove the obstruction, but she is fearful of the response they may receive from federal law enforcement agents she described as "federal occupiers."

"Typically, we would send a maintenance crew or contractor to remove such an obstruction, but I will not send workers into harm's way," she said.

"Yes, I am afraid to direct workers to do their job and enforce our laws against the federal government—I hope that gives everyone reading this pause."

The move came as Attorney General William Barr defended the aggressive response by federal agents in the city, telling the House Judiciary Committee that "violent rioters and anarchists have hijacked legitimate protests."

Portland has seen more than 60 consecutive nights of protests since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody last month.

Earlier this month, the Trump administration deployed agents from several federal law enforcement agencies to the city to quell the violence and protect federal property.

Trump said that federal buildings in the city "wouldn't last a day" without the protection of federal agents. However, local and state officials have said that their presence has made the situation far worse.

Unrest escalated after federal agents were accused of sweeping up protesters far from federal property without probable cause and taking them away in unmarked vehicles.

In recent days, federal agents have emerged from the courthouse and fired tear gas and less-lethal munitions indiscriminately at peaceful protesters, according to a lawsuit filed on behalf of the Wall of Moms group, anti-racist organization Don't Shoot Portland and individual protesters.

The Department of Homeland Security has been contacted for comment.

A crowd of protesters gather around a perimeter fence outside the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse on July 22, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. Nathan Howard/Getty Images