US Attorney: Feds will stay in Portland until attacks on US courthouse end

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A demonstrator shouts slogans using a bullhorn next to a group of military veterans during a Black Lives Matter protest at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse Sunday, July 26, 2020, in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Federal militarized officers will remain in Portland until attacks on the U.S. courthouse cease, a top official said Monday after a night of violence. And more officers may soon be on the way.

“It is not a solution to tell federal officers to leave when there continues to be attacks on federal property and personnel. We are not leaving the building unprotected to be destroyed by people intent on doing so,” U.S. Attorney Billy Williams told a telephonic news conference.

Local and state officials said the federal officers are unwelcome. The mayor of Portland and five other cities appealed Monday to Congress to make it illegal for the federal government to deploy militarized federal agents to cities that don't want them.

“This administration's egregious use of federal force on cities over the objections of local authorities should never happen,” the mayors of Portland, Seattle, Chicago, Kansas City Albuquerque and Washington D.C. wrote to leaders of the U.S. House and Senate.

The mayors want Congress to require consultation with and consent from local authorities before federal deployments; require visible identification at all times on federal agents and vehicles unless on an undercover mission authorized by the local U.S. attorney; and limit federal agents’ activities to protecting federal property.

The city has had nightly protests for two months since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May. President Donald Trump said he sent federal agents to Portland to halt the unrest but state and local officials said they are making the situation worse.

Trump’s deployment of the federal officers over the July 4 weekend fanned the flames of the Black Lives Matter protest movement here. The number of protesters had dwindled to perhaps less than 100 right before the deployment, and now has swelled to the thousands.

Early Monday, U.S. agents repeatedly fired tear gas, flash bangs and pepper balls at protesters outside the federal courthouse in downtown Portland. Some protesters had climbed over the fence surrounding the courthouse, while others shot fireworks, banged on the fence and projected lights on the building.