President Donald Trump said Thursday that federal officers who were stationed at the courthouse in downtown Portland will remain in the city through at least Friday to see if Gov. Kate Brown and Mayor Ted Wheeler clear out protesters Trump described as “beehive of terrorists.”
If Brown and Wheeler do not succeed, Trump threatened to send in the National Guard.
Thursday was the first day of a phased withdrawal of federal officers from the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse, where protests against police violence and systemic racism have continued more than 60 days. The focus shifted more recently to federal police tactics, after officers seriously injured multiple people with impact munitions and unidentified agents swept at least two protesters into unmarked vans.
Portland police swept people from a park adjacent to the federal courthouse early Thursday morning and Oregon State Police assumed control of the area around the courthouse Thursday afternoon.
The Trump administration reached agreement with Brown’s office earlier in the week for the federal withdrawal. But the president claimed Thursday they wouldn’t necessarily leave.
“Our people are staying there to see whether or not (the Oregon State Police and Portland police) can do it today and tomorrow and if they don’t do it, we will send in the National guard and we’ll take care of it,” Trump said.
The president made the remarks during a televised coronavirus briefing, in response to a question from a reporter for One America News, a conservative network known for friendly coverage of the president. The reporter asked if Trump was confident Brown and Wheeler could “quell the protest in Oregon.”
“Many should be arrested because these are professional agitators, these are professional anarchists, these are people who hate our country,” Trump said. Brown and Wheeler are “working today and probably tomorrow to clean out this beehive of terrorists. And if they do, it I’m going to be very happy, and then slowly we can start to leave the city. If they don’t do it, we’ll be sending in the National Guard.”
Neither Trump nor federal officials have offered any evidence that professional agitators are at work. In fact, an AP analysis released Thursday found that most of the 200 people arrested during downtown Portland protests are local white people, often college students, with no previous criminal record in Oregon.
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