Legislators float new idea: Move fed courthouse out of Portland
While Gov. Kate Brown and Mayor Ted Wheeler try to find a safe way out of a nightly rowdy protest jam in downtown, state Rep. Mike Nearman has a ready solution: Move the federal courthouse out of Portland.
Nearman, a Republican from Independence, sent a press release Wednesday, July 29, calling on President Trump and the federal General Services Administration to close the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse on Southwest Third Avenue and move its functions to a new building in Dallas, Oregon. That's about 60 miles south of downtown Portland in Polk County. It's also about 21 miles west of the state capital in Salem.
"While this will certainly be inconvenient for many in Portland who have business at the courthouse, the city of Portland has demonstrated over the last two months that it is both unwilling and unable to provide even the most basic security for the facility," Nearman said in his press release.
Also on Wednesday, state Rep. E. Werner Reschke, a Klamath Falls Republican, suggested that his Southern Oregon district would be a good place for the courthouse.
"We have watched for nearly two months as violent protests rock downtown Portland, endangering Oregonians, law enforcement officers, and the federal courthouse," Reschke said in a press release. "Klamath County would be a great place for federal officials to administer justice in a safe and welcoming environment."
The 16-story, 563,000-square-foot courthouse was constructed in 1997 to replace the Gus Solomon Courthouse on Southwest Main Street, built in 1933.
There are other federal courthouses in Eugene, Medford and Pendleton. Dallas, Oregon, has a population of about 15,000 people.
Since late May, the courthouse and the nearby Multnomah County Justice Center have been the focus of nightly rallies and protests. Most of the rallies highlighting the Black Lives Matter movement are peaceful. Late in the evening, and early in the morning, many protesters have turned violent, throwing objects at police and federal agents at the courthouse, setting fires and dodging tear gas.
Wednesday morning, Brown announced that the state had reached an agreement with federal officials to withdraw most of the agents at the courthouse that have been the object of protesters' rage.
Tribune reporter Zane Sparling contributed to this news story.
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