PORTLAND, Ore. — A senior White House official says the Trump administration has started talks with the Oregon governor’s office and indicated that it would begin to draw down the presence of federal agents in Portland if the state stepped up its own enforcement.
The senior administration official stressed to The Associated Press that the talks with the office of Democratic Gov. Kate Brown are in the early stages and there is no agreement.
Just a day earlier, the administration was weighing whether to send in more agents. Trump on Monday called the protesters “anarchist agitators.” Brown didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
News of the talks comes a day after Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty requested a meeting with Department of Homeland Security leadership “to discuss a ceasefire and removal of heightened federal forces from Portland.”
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan on Tuesday said federal agents sent to Seattle have left.
In Portland, there have been nightly clashes between Black Lives Matter protesters and federal officers, who first arrived in the city at the beginning of the month. Those clashes have typically ended with federal officers using tear gas to disperse protesters gathered outside the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse in downtown.
Federal officers were sent to Portland after sustained protests for weeks following the killing of George Floyd. During that time, there were often clashes between Portland police and demonstrators, who in addition to racial justice, were calling for significant police reform or abolishment and the resignation of Mayor Wheeler, who oversees the Portland Police Bureau. While the protests continued, the number of demonstrators appeared to be declining.
But the presence of federal officers, which has been objected to by Wheeler, Brown and most of the state's congressional delegation, led to escalating tensions between law enforcement and protesters. Videos on social media, which have shown a protester being seriously injured after being a hit in the head by a less-than-lethal munition and federal officers appearing to detain and throw protesters into unmarked vans without explanation, spurred opposition to the federal response.
Last weekend saw thousands of people demonstrating for racial justice, followed by overnight clashes between federal officers and protesters. Federal authorities said some demonstrators lit fires, launched fireworks at officers and breached a huge fence set up to protect the courthouse. Twenty-two people were arrested over the weekend and face federal charges, according to U.S. Attorney Billy Williams. That appears to be in addition to the 60 people who had been arrested or detained since early July, when federal officers arrived in Portland, up until last weekend.
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