Jul 22, 2020 - Politics & Policy

DHS chief defends federal agents in Portland: "We will not retreat"

Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf speaks during a press conference on July 21, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Acting Homeland Secretary Security Chad Wolf speaks about federal agents in Portland during a press conference in Washington, D.C. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf pushed back on Tuesday against criticism of federal agents' conduct during massive protests in Portland, Oregon, following calls for an investigation into their conduct.

What he's saying: Wolf said at a news conference in Washington, D.C., that what's occurring in the city "is not peaceful protesting." "We have been forced because of local law enforcement presence to take measures such as arrests to protect our officials," he added.

"We will not retreat. We will continue to take the appropriate action to protect our facilities and our law enforcement officers."
ā€” Wolf

Driving the news: Reports that federal law enforcement officers in unmarked vehicles detained Portland protesters without explanation has attracted widespread criticism from leading Democrats, who've demanded a probe. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Monday added his voice to those denouncing the use of federal agents against protesters.

  • The U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon has called for an inspector general investigation into the reports.
  • But Wolf dismissed the criticism, saying: "The smear attacks leveled against our officers is disgusting."

What to watch: The Oregon's attorney general's office has opened a criminal investigation into an incident resulting in the injury of a protester.

  • The state attorney general filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court seeking a restraining order, accusing federal agents of unlawful tactics.

The big picture: Black Lives Matter protests swelled in Portland this week despite the presence of federal law enforcement officers. Demonstrations against police violence have continued in the city for more than 50 days, Axios' Orion Rummler notes.

Go deeper: In photos: Unrest at Portland protests amid federal force presence

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