Oregon governor says US agents will start leaving Portland

Federal officers are surrounded by smoke as they push back demonstrators during a Black Lives Matter protest at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse Wednesday, July 29, 2020, in Portland, Ore.

U.S. Attorney for Colorado Jason R. Dunn defended the use of federal personnel in Portland and elsewhere as “a good thing” in a guest commentary to The Denver Post, and advised people to “take a collective deep breath, tone down the rhetoric, and try to better understand both what has actually happened” during the protests in Oregon’s largest city.

“Ultimately, bringing in law enforcement to areas that need support is a good thing, whether it be to defend public property or to help address the jump in violent crime across our nation,” Dunn wrote. “And as the U.S. attorney, you have my assurance that federal law enforcement in Colorado will continue to operate in accordance with the law, and will strive to work cooperatively with state and local authorities to make Colorado a safer and better place.”

The comments from Dunn, whom President Donald Trump nominated for the prosecutor job two years ago, followed dueling requests from Democratic and Republican state lawmakers about whether he should oppose an enhanced federal law enforcement presence in Colorado. 

On Wednesday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced on Twitter that she negotiated a withdrawal of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Marshals Service and other personnel from Portland. State police will take their place. Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that approximately 114 federal officers were stationed in the city to protect the courthouse from vandalism. The chaos in recent days also included the launching of fireworks and projectiles, police said.

Racial justice protests had occurred in Portland continuously for months, and had been diminishing in the past several weeks. But when the Trump Administration deployed federal officers to protect public property, tensions again escalated after videos surfaced of personnel pulling individuals into unmarked vans and injuring protesters.

Dunn acknowledged the use of unmarked vehicles, saying “virtually all state and local police agencies” employ the same tactic. He believed there has been “confusion” about what happened in Oregon and fears of a replay of the violence elsewhere.

“There is also no credible indication that federal agents have been more broadly wandering the streets of Portland looking for agitators or taking people anywhere other than back to the courthouse where all federal detainees are taken,” he wrote. “And in the very small number of cases where agents have been accused of acting outside their authority, those incidents are being reviewed by the Inspector General for the respective agencies."

Dunn also endorsed the notion of deploying federal assistance to Colorado, albeit in consultation with state leaders, as part of the administration’s initiative to respond to violent crime in cities like Chicago. Earlier in July, CBS4 reported that violent crime rates have risen in cities like Denver, Aurora and Colorado Springs, despite the pandemic.

“In short, Project LeGend will help address the recent spike in violent crime occurring in many communities across our nation,” Dunn wrote. “That is very different than what is being done in Portland to protect federal employees and property. If done properly, both serve a valid purpose.”

Trump has said that his administration is looking into sending federal authorities to cities that are “run by very liberal Democrats. All run, really, by the radical left.”

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