Oregon state police arrive in Portland in push to stop riotscloseVideo
Federal agents to begin phased withdrawal from Portland
The federal agents who have clashed with protesters in Portland will begin a phased withdrawal from the city's downtown area, Oregon's Gov. Kate Brown announces; William La Jeunesse reports.
The Oregon State Police on Thursday will take over the duties of guarding a federal courthouse in Portland that has become a flashpoint during weeks of protests that have turned violent.
The state troopers will not be dressed in riot or tactical gear like the federal agents previously stationed at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse, police Superintendent Travis Hampton said.
"It is obvious the current strategy is not sustainable and has the high probability of serious injury or death, as officers and community members clash," Hampton said in a statement to Fox News. "OSP hopes to de-escalate the tensions around the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse, facilitating peaceful free speech and proportional response if criminal activity is observed."
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The withdrawal of federal forces came after an agreement was reached between Democratic Gov. Kate Brown and the Trump administration, which cited growing unrest and lawlessness in its decision to deploy agents to cities across the country.
Brown has "made clear that her goal is to deescalate the nightly confrontations we have seen downtown since federal troops arrived in Portland," a spokesperson for the governor told the Oregonian.
Many critics of the federal intervention have voiced concerns over the response of agents to the protests and the inability to decipher their identities or what agency they are with. Authorities have engaged nightly in violent confrontations with demonstrators.
In addition, buildings near the courthouse have been vandalized and set fire, including the Portland Justice Center.
“These federal officers have acted as an occupying force, refused accountability, and brought violence and strife to our community," Brown said Wednesday in announcing the phased withdrawal.
State troopers will focus on protecting free speech and the public, Hampton said, as protesters continue to call for police reform and an end to systemic racism.
About 100 state police employees consisting of members of the agency's special operations team and supervisors from across the state will be sent to events in the Portland for a minimum of two weeks, Hampton said. Those responding have tactical and crowd control training, according to the newspaper.
State police commanders will monitor the actions of troopers on the ground while Hampton will oversee the response from a command center with Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell.
Hampton acknowledged the task that awaits his troopers in an internal memo obtained by the Oregonian.
"All eyes of the nation will be on us, particularly when we supplant federal officers at the courthouse in an effort to bring down the protest temperature," he wrote. "It is not a stage we wished to be on, but we will do out part for Oregon. We'll do our best."
In a Thursday afternoon tweet, the state police lent its support to those reassigned to Portland.
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"Important message from the #OSPfamily to Troopers assigned to assist in PDX," the post read. “We may not be standing alongside you today, but we are behind you 100%. Put your minds at easy about your communities & the rest of #Oregon, we are here.”