There was a report Tuesday evening that the Trump administration was in talks about the possibility of drawing down the number of federal police in Portland. Today, Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced on Twitter that, after discussions with “VP Pence and others,” federal officers will be withdrawn from Portland.
Our local Oregon State Police officers will be downtown to protect Oregonians' right to free speech and keep the peace. Let's center the Black Lives Matter movement's demands for racial justice and police accountability. It's time for bold action to reform police practices.
— Governor Kate Brown (@OregonGovBrown) July 29, 2020
Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf put out a statement of his own which framed the situation somewhat differently. According to Wolf, federal officers will remain in Portland until they are confident that Oregon state police can defend the courthouse which has been the focus of protests for weeks.
“The Department will continue to 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.”
— Acting Secretary Chad Wolf (@DHS_Wolf) July 29, 2020
So it sounds like the federal officers will still be there in a reserve/advisory capacity for the time being. That seemed to be President Trump’s understanding of the situation as well this morning, i.e. no one is actually leaving until it’s clear the courthouse is secure:
Trump on Portland: "We're not leaving until they secure their city … if they don't secure their city soon, we have no choice — we're gonna have to go in and clean it out." pic.twitter.com/y9xg1fhnnO
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 29, 2020
So has anything really changed as far as the nightly rioters are concerned? I guess we’ll find out later tonight. But I already see some people online declaring victory.
On one hand, the “protesters” could claim this is a victory and either stay home or hold a perfectly peaceful protest tonight to show what model citizens they are when they get their way. If the organizers are smart they’ll try to do that for a night to get some positive press out of it. That would also move a step closer to having the feds leave town.
On the other hand, getting rid of federal officers was never really the point. These nightly protests/riots were happening for weeks before the federal reinforcements showed up. In fact, the feds showed up because of the nightly violence. So having the feds leave (eventually) doesn’t mean this is over.
These were never pro-federalism protests they were anti-police protests. Replacing federal police with state police shouldn’t make much difference to people whose stated goal is to defund police.
As I suggested yesterday, I think this is probably a good move. The feds did their job under impossible circumstances while the Mayor and the Governor sat back and sided with the rioters and complained. Now it’s on them to protect the courthouse and they have no one else to blame.
Let’s start with the fence.
The city of Portland has been demanding that the metal fence erected around the building be removed. They were assessing a $500 fine for every 15 minutes it remained up. Now that this is their show, will they remove the fence or leave it up? It’s not a small decision. If they remove it that makes it a lot easier for rioters to swarm the outside of the building and start fires. What do they do if that happens? Will they order Oregon police to disperse a violent crowd with gas? Or will they ask state police to take a beating the way the feds have been? It’s Gov. Brown’s and Mayor Wheeler’s problem now. Now President Trump can sit back and play critic.