Federal Agents Fire Tear Gas at Portland Protesters After Oregon Gov. Says They're Leaving

Federal agents in Portland tear gassed and kettled protesters on Wednesday night, hours after Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said the Trump administration had agreed to withdraw federal forces from the city.

Around 500 people arrived in downtown Portland for a 63rd consecutive night of protests after Brown's announcement, The Oregonian reported. Hundreds of people raised their hands in the air when a Black speaker asked people if they believe federal agents won't actually leave the city, the newspaper reported.

Journalist Garrison Davis reported that the majority of the crowd was in front of the Multnomah County Justice Center, but many were also outside the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse, including mothers from the Wall of Moms group.

Shortly before 11 p.m., federal officers issued their first warning of the night to the crowd gathered outside the federal courthouse, according to The Oregonian, apparently prompted by people shining lights at the building.

Minutes later, federal agents emerged from the courthouse and set off stun grenades and shot pepper balls at protesters, the newspaper reported. Federal officers emerged a second time a short time later and again set off stun grenades and fired tear gas.

"Feds just randomly shooting pepper bullets into the crowd from inside the courthouse every five minutes or so. Really feels like they're trying to provoke the crowd into doing something," Davis tweeted alongside a video. "Totally unprovoked, the Feds charge out and send teargas into the street and shoot through the fence."

Federal officers continued firing tear gas at peaceful protesters at steady intervals, Davis added.

"After this perticular [sic] teargas attack, at 11:30 pm, the Federal Protective Service declared an Unlawful Assembly and told "peaceful protesters" to leave west," Davis wrote. "At 11:40 pm the Feds came back out and started teargassing again."

Davis shared another video showing federal officers approaching protesters from the direction they told the crowd to move toward.

"A lotta officers showed up from the west, the same direction they wanted people to head," he wrote, adding later that federal agents had kettled hundreds of people. "The Feds are definitely trying to box people in around the courthouse."

Federal agents set off tear gas and fired munitions as they closed in on the crowd, according to The Oregonian.

It came hours after Brown announced that an agreement had been reached to withdraw federal officers starting Thursday after discussions with Vice President Mike Pence and other officials.

Federal agents from several law enforcement agencies were deployed to the city early in July to quell unrest in the city and protect federal property.

But their presence inflamed tensions, galvanizing protests in downtown Portland that had started to dwindle, and local officials said they did not ask for the deployment.

"These federal officers have acted as an occupying force, refused accountability, and brought violence and strife to our community," Brown said in a statement.

She said officers with the Oregon State Police will "provide protection for free speech and the security of the exterior of the courthouse with the Federal Protective Service," but a "limited contingent of federal officials, who act as building security year-round, will remain and will stay focused on the interior of the U.S. Courthouse."

The agreement appeared tenuous with Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, saying federal officers wouldn't leave until federal buildings were secure.

His agency "will continue 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 and that the seat of justice in Portland will remain secure," he said in a statement.

In a tweet later on Wednesday, he added: "As I told the Governor yesterday, federal law enforcement will remain in Portland until the violent activity toward our federal facilities ends. We are not removing any law enforcement while our facilities and law enforcement remain under attack."

Earlier President Donald Trump said federal forces wouldn't leave Portland until they were assured the city was "secure."

"You hear all sorts of reports about us leaving," Trump said hours before Brown announced the agreement.

"We're not leaving until they've secured their city. We told the governor, we told the mayor: 'Secure your city.' If they don't secure their city soon, we have no choice—we're going to have to go in and clean it out."

Portland
Protesters clash with federal police in front of the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse on July 28, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. Spencer Platt/Getty Images