DHS Head Hits Back at Criticism of Federal Officers Deployed to Portland

Acting homeland security secretary Chad Wolf on Tuesday hit back at criticism of the department’s officers deployed in Portland, Ore., slamming media coverage of federal police activities in the city as well as local officials’ response to rioting.

Portland has seen continuous rioting since the death of George Floyd, an African American man killed in May during his arrest by Minneapolis police officers. Portland mayor Ted Wheeler lamented the violence in comments on July 3, writing on Twitter that the rioters “continue to hurt small businesses owned by people of color, instill fear in communities of color, and start fires in buildings with people inside.”

Federal police officers have deployed to the city over the past two weeks, drawn from various units, including Border Patrol special operations. Those units have drawn media criticism after some demonstrators reported being grabbed off the street and transported to a different location by federal officers without identifying insignia on their uniforms.

“All officers are identified as police law enforcement officers,” Wolf asserted during a press conference. “They are only targeting those who have been identified as committing criminal acts.” 

Wheeler has blamed federal officers for exacerbating the violence, saying on Friday that their presence in the city “reignited tensions.” Wolf said in response, “rational people know that is not true.”

Portland Police Association head Daryl Turner decried the violence on Sunday, after rioters set fire to part of the association’s headquarters.

“This is no longer about George Floyd, racial equity, social justice reform or the evolution of policing,” Turner said. “This is about violence, rioting and destruction. Our city is under siege by rioters.”