PORTLAND, Ore. — UPDATE (July 17): Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf was in Portland on Thursday. His office sent out a news release condemning "rampant, long-lasting violence" in the city, complete with a timeline alleging violence by anarchists on Portland streets.
On Thursday night, federal officers fired pepper balls, flashbangs and tear gas at protesters after a person lit a firework in their direction.
Original story below:
President Trump has claimed federal agents deployed to Portland have arrested protesters and calmed the chaos.
“We’ve done a great job in Portland," Trump said on Monday. “Portland was totally out of control, and they went in, and I guess we have many people right now in jail. We very much quelled it, and if it starts again, we'll quell it again very easily. It's not hard to do, if you know what you're doing."
The president’s remarks, following a weekend incident in which a federal agent shot a Portland protester in the head with a less-than-lethal munition, has raised several questions about federal law enforcement.
Who are these federal officers?
Four federal law enforcement agencies including U.S. Marshals, Federal Protective Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Homeland Security Investigations have rotated officers through Portland since early July. The U.S. Marshals Service is the lead agency. It’s not clear how many federal officers are currently in Portland to help with protests. In addition to uniformed law enforcement, court records indicate plain-clothed federal agents have also been working the crowd.
What are they protecting?
Federal officers are protecting federal property and personnel in downtown Portland including the Mark. O Hatfield federal courthouse, Pioneer Courthouse, the Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building and Terry Schrunk Plaza. Local federal officers don’t have enough people to secure all federal buildings.
“We needed some assistance and got that assistance,” said Billy Williams, U.S. Attorney for Oregon.
Prosecutors said there’s already been more than $50,000 in damage to the federal courthouse.
How many arrests have the feds made?
Federal prosecutors said nearly a dozen people have been arrested. They’re facing a variety of charges from assault on federal officers to destruction of federal government property and disorderly conduct.
“They’re not protesters- they’re just lawless actors,” said Williams.
Recent cases involved one protester who allegedly attacked a federal agent with a large hammer. Another demonstrator is facing federal charges for allegedly shining a green laser at officers’ eyes causing temporary blurred vision.
What can federal officers do that local police can’t?
Unlike Portland police, which is subject to a court order limiting the use of tear gas, federal agents can use a variety of crowd control devices. It is not clear what type of less-lethal munitions federal officers are equipped with, although previous reporting indicates the feds have used CS or tear gas during the protests in Portland.
Who is holding federal officers accountable for their actions?
Federal law enforcement must comply with agency protocol and standards for use of force. The U.S. Marshals Services asked for an internal investigation of this weekend’s incident involving a federal officer’s use of a less-than-lethal round that struck and seriously injured a Portland protester. The case has been referred to the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General for review.