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Portland Fining Federal Government $500 For Every 15 Minutes Fence Remains Around Federal Courthouse

Portland, OR – Portland Commissioner Chloe Eudaly announced on Tuesday that the city is fining the federal government $500 for every 15 minutes the protective fence surrounding the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse remains in place.

“As of yesterday, the federal government owes us $192,000 and counting,” Eudaly declared in a statement on July 28. “We intend to collect.”

Eudaly said that on July 23, she ordered the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) “to enforce on the federal occupiers for erecting a fence in our public right of way.”

In a letter to the U.S. General Services Administration dated the same day as Eudaly’s order, PBOT Director Chris Warner declared that the protective fence around the federal courthouse was illegal.

“Unidentified contractors have installed fencing and concrete barriers illegally in the City of Portland’s Right of Way on the streets surrounding the Hatfield Courthouse in downtown Portland,” Warner wrote.

“The structures are both unpermitted and represent a hazard to the traveling public, particularly along SW Main, which is a major bicycle corridor into the central business district,” the transportation director said. “The structure completely obstructs the bike lane and needs to be removed promptly.”

Warner warned that if the federal government refuses to comply with the directive, it will amount to a “Class I violation of City Code and Transportation Administrative Rules designed to protect the safety of the traveling public and will be subject to fines and potential legal action.”

Warner further enclosed a “Cease and Desist demand” from Chief Deputy City Attorney Robert Taylor, which was dated July 22.

Eudaly said on Tuesday that the city has not received a response from the federal government, so they have decided to assess the “maximum fine of $500 for every 15 minutes the fence obstructs our street.”

“Typically, we would send a maintenance crew or contractor to remove such an obstruction, but I will not send workers into harm’s way,” she wrote. “Yes, I am afraid to direct workers to do their job and enforce our laws against the federal government—I hope that gives everyone reading this pause.”

Eudaly noted that the city is also “investigating other legal remedies” to the situation.

The Portland City Council unanimously voted in favor of two resolutions introduced by Eudaly last week.

One of the resolutions banned employees of the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) “from cooperating with the federal occupiers,” while the other shields the “press and legal observers” from arrest, she said.

Eudaly and other local and state leaders have repeatedly blamed federal officers and President Donald Trump for the nightly riots that have taken place in the city over the past two months.

Rioters have repeatedly fired mortars and other projectiles at federal officers, sprayed the federal courthouse with graffiti, broken windows, attempted to barricade exits, and ignited fires inside and outside of the building during overnight attacks.

Portland business owners have further reported a staggering $23 million in losses due to rioting and looting in the downtown area, FOX News reported.

Although the fence has provided federal officers with some level of protection, rioters have incessantly attempted to tear it down.

One such effort took place on July 22, just feet away from where Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler stood in solidarity with the rioters, video footage showed.

Hours after it was initially erected on July 18, rioters dismantled the fence and stacked the sections up in front of the courthouse doors, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

Contractors later returned to rebuild the fence, then reinforced it with concrete barriers.

But instead of holding rioters accountable for the mayhem, city leaders have targeted the federal government.

“At a time when tensions were starting to decrease on our streets, Trump sent federal agents from two of the most politicized and controversial agencies—Customs and Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security—without Congressional authorization or notification, or local elected officials’ consent, into our city,” Eudaly complained on Tuesday.

“While we work to counteract their presence, we face an uphill battle to do so in a process designed to usurp not just our local authority, but the authority of our federal representatives,” she wrote. “As your elected representatives, we are doing everything we can.”

She assured citizens that legislators are working to ban tear gas and limit less-lethal munitions options for law enforcement officers.

“Indiscriminately tear-gassing and firing impact munitions at thousands of peaceful protesters is not a proportionate response,” the commissioner declared.

Eudaly further denounced the Trump administration’s Monday announcement regarding the deployment of additional federal officers to the Portland area.

She noted that Wheeler and Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty have demanded a meeting with the Department of Homeland Security to discuss a “ceasefire and the removal of heightened federal forces” from the city, but that they have not yet received a response.

The commissioner also urged citizens to “support the Black Lives Matter Movement” and to “keep fighting.”

“I know how challenging this is for Portlanders,” Eudaly wrote. “I am committed to doing everything in my power to end this federal occupation and move forward with our community’s reckoning with racial injustice and our efforts to transform our approach to policing and public safety.”

Oregon U.S. Attorney Billy Williams told The Oregonian on Saturday that the increased number of federal officers will remain in the city until the “violent extremists” have left the area and the rioting ends.

“Anyone who thinks we’re just going to give up the courthouse, Hatfield, Pioneer (Courthouse) or any other federal facility downtown, that’s not going to happen,” Williams told The Oregonian. “We’re not leaving.”

“We’re going to do what we need to do to protect federal property,” he added. “When the violence ends, then there won’t be a need for the presence of nightly federal officers…It seems quite simple.”

Williams and District of Oregon U.S. Marshal Russel Burger said that the federal officers’ use of less-lethal impact munitions and tear gas to defend against the rioters has been justified.

Officers immediately come under attack whenever they exit the building, Marshal Burger noted.

Rioters pelt them with various objects, including ball bearings, water bottles, and fireworks, he said.

One officer was hospitalized on Friday night after being burned by a mortar blast, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Gabriel.

Another officer suffered a concussion, and four others suffered various other injuries, The Oregonian reported.

“We want to support people’s rights to express themselves…but at the same time when our people are under attack, they have to defend themselves,” Marshal Burger said. “It would be great if the peaceful protesters would tell the violent ones to please stop so they aren’t the recipient of gas or munitions.”

He told The Oregonian that federal officers will continue to do whatever is needed to protect themselves and federal buildings.

“If it means pushing them out four blocks away – if that’s what it takes – that’s what they got to do,” Marshal Burger said.

Federal Protective Service Principal Deputy Director Kris Cline said that federal officers wouldn’t need to take action in Portland if the city would allow PPB to shut down the rioters.

“If the Portland Police Bureau were able to do what they typically do, they would be able to clear this out for this disturbance and we would leave our officers inside the building and not be visible,” Cline told the Associated Press.

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

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Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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