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Video message from Acting Director Chad Wolf criticizes Portland and the state for putting 'politics over public safety'

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Federal police officers unleased tear gas, pepper spray and crowd control munitions during a protest in Portland on Friday, July 17.Gov. Kate Brown's office is disputing a Monday federal Department of Homeland Security video message that says Oregon and Portland officials refused to help protect the downtown federal courthouse during weeks of nightly protests.

Chad Wolf, acting Department of Homeland Security director, posted the video Aug. 3 on the agency's employee resources website. In it, Wolf said state and local officials provided no support for federal agents protecting the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse in downtown Portland. He criticized state and city elected officials for their "lack of support and assistance," and for putting "politics over public safety."

"You have heard me use strong and passionate language over the weeks to describe what is going on in Portland," Wolf said. "I do so because your fellow colleagues are risking their lives every day to protect the seat of justice in Portland. And the lack of support and assistance from state and local officials has been unacceptable.

"Since the beginning, I have called on those elected leaders to cooperate in quelling the violence. Until this week (July 28), they have refused. They have freely chosen to put politics over public safety."

Charles Boyle, Brown's deputy communications director, said Monday, Aug. 3, that the governor's office had no record of requests for assistance from the Department of Homeland to protect the federal courthouse. Wolf, who came to Portland July 13 to visit federal agents guarding the courthouse, "flat out refused" when Gov. Brown told him federal agents were "inflaming the situation in Portland and should leave the state," Boyle said.

"Last week, Gov. Brown called Vice President (Mike) Pence, initiating negotiations that led to an agreement for the federal troops to leave downtown Portland," Boyle said. "The governor's goal was to deescalate the situation that the Trump administration had created. Beginning on Thursday (July 30), as soon as federal troops stopped roaming the streets of Portland, we have seen several nights of peaceful protests with very little confrontation."

The agreement announced July 28 called for Oregon State Police to take over security around the courthouse. Federal Protective Service agents would stay inside the building during protests and rallies, according to the agreement. About 100 additional agents sent to the city to bolster the protective service agents were expected to leave beginning this month.

COURTESY PHOTO - DHS Acting Director Chad Wolf told agency employees in an Aug. 3 video that Oregon state and local officials did not provide assistance for federal agents guarding the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse during nightly protests.Wolf said in the video that many of those agents would stay until things calmed around the federal building. "DHS will remain at our current augmented levels of personnel until we are assured that local officials can keep the peace night after night," Wolf said.

Local officials and most of Oregon's congressional delegation have criticized Wolf's agency for tactics used during nightly protests. Video of DHS officers arresting people off Portland streets and putting them in unmarked, rented vans stirred political furor among local and state leaders.

"The governor's goal was to deescalate the situation that the Trump administration had created." — Charles Boyle, Gov. Kate Brown spokesman

When Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler joined protesters on July 22 to call for federal agents to leave the city, the agents fired tear gas into the crowd.

Wolf expects to testify this month about actions by officers at the protests at a hearing by the House Committee on Homeland Security. A committee hearing on the issue has not been scheduled.

"I am looking forward to have the opportunity to tell the full and complete story about what our law enforcement officers have been up against in Portland," Wolf said.

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