PORTLAND (Agencies): President Trump on Monday suggested Oregon authorities call in the National Guard in response to sustained protests here, claiming state officials were “putting people’s lives at risk” by failing to do so.
“Portland, which is out of control, should finally, after almost 3 months, bring in the National Guard,” Trump tweeted. “The Mayor and Governor are putting people’s lives at risk. They will be held responsible. The Guard is ready to act immediately. The Courthouse is secured by Homeland!”
Trump’s renewed threat to send National Guard troops to Portland comes after several nights of isolated violence that have prompted riot declarations by police and the first deployment of tear gas by local law enforcement in over a month.
Trump has repeatedly clashed with Portland officials over their response to 74 straight nights of protests since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.
The arrival of federal agents to protect a federal courthouse, whose tactics included detaining protesters in unmarked vehicles and deploying large amounts of tear gas, rejuvenated the protests around their 50th day.
After several weeks of nightly confrontations between protesters and federal agents, which included members of elite border patrol tactical teams, Gov. Kate Brown (D) struck a deal with federal authorities to have state troopers guard the courthouse, with federal agents on standby off the front lines.
On July 30, the day Brown’s deal took effect, Trump threatened at a coronavirus briefing to send in the National Guard if Brown and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler (D) did not clear out what he claimed without evidence was a “beehive of terrorists” in the city.
He noted that National Guard troops would have broader authority to enforce laws in the city than agents whose mandate is to guard federal buildings.
Marches and demonstrations since July 29 have been much smaller than those at the height of clashes with federal agents and have taken place away from downtown, targeting Portland Police Bureau stations and the headquarters of the Portland Police Association.
Police declared a riot on Wednesday after demonstrators set fire to a trash can next to the entrance of the East Precinct building, The Oregonian reported. Officers deployed tear gas, which they are barred from using except in life-threatening situations under a temporary restraining order.
Wheeler in a press conference Thursday urged nonviolent demonstrators to avoid attending the protests and creating a “prop” for Trump’s campaign ads.
He said the protesters who set the fire were “attempting to commit murder.”
Authorities again declared riots Saturday and Sunday, this time in North Portland, where a protest Saturday was peaceful until a small group of protesters started a fire inside the police union building. Nine people were arrested Saturday and another 16 were arrested the following day. The president has been denouncing the violent demonstrations in Portland for weeks, and his administration deployed federal agents, including the U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group and a U.S. Customs and Border Protection team based on the U.S.-Mexico border, to protect federal property.