The federal agents who have wielded tear gas, rubber bullets and flash-bang devices against protesters nightly for the past two months in Portland, Oregon, will soon be leaving the city, according to an announcement from Gov. Kate Brown.
Earlier on Wednesday, President Donald Trump, responding to reports that negotiations on removing the federal officers had begun, insisted that those officers would remain in the city until the nightly demonstrations came to an end.
“You hear all sorts of reports about us leaving. We’re not leaving until they’ve secured their city,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
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Less than one hour later, Governor Brown announced that the negotiations had been successful, and that federal officers would be leaving the state’s largest city.
“After my discussions with [Vice President Mike] Pence and others, the federal government has agreed to withdraw federal officers from Portland,” Brown tweeted.
The governor described federal agents in Portland as “an occupying force” that “brought violence” to the city.
“Starting tomorrow, all Customs and Border Protection & ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] officers will leave downtown Portland,” she added.
As part of the agreement, Brown explained in a subsequent tweet, federal agents would be replaced with Oregon State Police officers. She also insisted that those officers would “protect Oregonians’ right to free speech” while keeping the peace.
“Let’s center the Black Lives Matter movement’s demands for racial justice and police accountability,” Brown added. “It’s time for bold action to reform police practices.”
While Brown insisted that federal agents would be removed right away, others reported a slightly different scenario, causing some confusion on the matter. According to reporting from the Associated Press, for example, the agents’ removal would be a “phased withdrawal.”
Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf also gave a conflicting statement as to whether the agreement, as Brown had laid out, was to be carried out in the terms she had mentioned.
“As I told the Governor yesterday, federal law enforcement will remain in Portland until the violent activity toward our federal facilities ends,” Wolf tweeted out.
In a lengthier statement, Wolf did state that an agreement was reached, but again emphasized that “augmented federal law enforcement personnel” would remain “in Portland until we are assured that the Hatfield Federal Courthouse and other federal properties will no longer be attacked.”
Clashes between federal agents and demonstrators taking part in uprisings in Portland have happened nightly for the past two months. The actions of federal officers have been widely criticized, in the U.S. as well as around the world, for being violent and disproportionate toward those engaging in protest in support of the Movement for Black Lives.
Although a number of people have filed lawsuits against the federal government, there is no comprehensive list of how many demonstrators have been injured due to the forceful and violent actions of the federal agents.
Still, videos recorded by news organizations, as well as posted on social media by demonstrators themselves, showcase a number of troubling practices by federal agents, including their indiscriminate use of tear gas and weapons like rubber bullets to suppress lawful protest.