As I first reported early this morning, discussions between federal officials and the Oregon Governor’s office began on Monday, and intensified on Tuesday, with regard to finding a solution to the problem of nightly riots at the Hatfield Federal Courthouse in Portland.
Earlier today, my colleague here, Nick Arama, provided details with respect to the “announcements” that came out of the Oregon Governor’s Office and the Department of Homeland Security on the progress of the discussions.
But this story seems to be changing by the hour, and the “details” with regard to the descriptions given out by each side makes you wonder if the relevant parties were in the same room and talking to each other.
Here is a Tweet put out by Oregon Governor Kate Brown:
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
In a plain example of the two sides not getting their messaging on the same page — or better yet putting out one message together — DHS Sec. Chad Wolf issued the following statement:
He then took to Twitter to send out the following message:
As I told the Governor yesterday, federal law enforcement will remain in Portland until the violent activity toward our federal facilities ends. We are not removing any law enforcement while our facilities and law enforcement remain under attack.
— Acting Secretary Chad Wolf (@DHS_Wolf) July 29, 2020
We will 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
Let us consider the “operative” from both as set forth in their respective public comments. First, Gov. Brown:
“The federal government has agreed to withdraw federal officers from Portland… Starting tomorrow [7/30] all Customs and Border Protecting, and ICE officers will leave downtown Portland.”
Our local Oregon State Police officers will be downtown to protect Oregonians’ right to free speech and keep the peace.
So the “deal” — to the extent there is one — will happen tomorrow, but the federal agents will only be leaving “downtown Portland”. Presumably, that means the agents will remain in the Portland area, they will just not be inside the Courthouse where they have been for their nightly activities to defend the Courthouse from rioters — but that is only if the Feds believe it is safe to make that change.
Now consider Sec. Wolf’s views on the “agreement”. First from the issued statement:
Governor Brown and I have … agreed to a joint plan to end violent activity in Portland directed at federal properties and law enforcement officers. That plan includes a robust presence of Oregon State Police in downtown Portland. State and local law enforcement will begin securing properties and streets, especially those surrounding federal properties that have been under nightly attack for the past two months. Oregon State Police will coordinate with the Federal Protective Service (FPS) to ensure all federal facilities remain protected and secure.
This is a “put up or shut up” announcement by Wolf. It states not just that there will be a State Police presence at the federal courthouse, but that State and local police “will begin securing the properties and streets“, especially those surrounding the federal courthouse.
“Securing the properties and streets” means that the State Police and Portland PD must take steps to deny the protesters their staging areas. This is an obligation that extends beyond the physical location of the courthouse. The protesters set up all their infrastructure and organizational needs away from the courthouse. There are two large public parks directly across the street from the main entrance to the Courthouse where most of the violence directed at the building happens. These are the staging areas — and areas for retreat — for much of the rioters’ actions. These are the areas the federal agents go into each night when they finally act to disperse the crowds once violence starts. Wolf’s statement makes clear that any withdrawal of federal agents is going to be conditioned on the willingness and effectiveness of the state and local police to disrupt the planning of the rioters. If the state and local police do not do that, then the federal agents are not leaving.
“Federal law enforcement will remain in Portland until the violent activities against our federal facilities ends. We are not removing any law enforcement while our facilities and law enforcement remain under attack.”
Gov. Brown says federal agents will be leaving downtown Portland tomorrow. Sec. Wolf says federal agents will leave when the attacks are stopped.
Looks like the ball is in Gov. Brown’s court to stop the attacks tonight if she intends for her announcement to be anything other than a bluff.
There is an old military saying that goes “The enemy gets a vote.” What that means is that no matter how well the plan is conceived, the opposition’s response to the plan will influence its success or failure.
In this case, Antifa/BLM and the others engaged in violent acts of rioting will get a “vote” in terms of how they respond to the presence of Oregon State Police and Portland PD in locations they have not been prior to tonight. Nearly 100% of the blame for the continued violence falls on the willful and affirmative decision by Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler to not have Portland PD deal with the activities in the streets around the courthouse, and to allow the planning and staging of the violence on the part of the rioters to take place unhindered on a nightly basis. There is no question but that he wanted it that way. This “agreement”, if meaningful, will be a repudiation of his decision to not act.
Put up or shut up, Gov. Brown.