Nine people were detained and all but one face charges Thursday as federal authorities broke up part of the protest camp near Southwest Portland Oregon’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters.
Dozens of officers with the Department of Homeland Security dismantled barriers at the building’s front doors and driveway. An encampment that includes tents, food and other supplies along railroad tracks on non-federal property adjacent to the building remains.
The protest, called Occupy ICE PDX, began June 17 in response to the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border and led to the federal office in Portland being closed two days later. Similar demonstrations have since occurred at ICE field offices in New York, California, Washington and other states.
The group has previously said they would end their demonstration at the ICE building if it closes permanently.
Before the police response Thursday in Portland, authorities distributed fliers to protesters Monday and Tuesday telling them to stop blocking access to the federal property or risk arrest.
Federal officers arrived at the ICE office along Southwest Macadam Avenue around 5:30 a.m. Within a half hour, officers in riot gear stood in lines on the street, blocking protesters and vehicle traffic in front of the ICE building as other officers loaded signs, couches, tents and other items into a U-Haul truck.
Yellow caution tape was later put up separating protesters from the officers. Protesters sat in lawn chairs, held signs with messages such as “Not today, Satan!” and chanted at officers as the materials were removed.
One of the protesters, a 78-year-old Portland woman who preferred to only go by her first name, Jean, sat in a plastic chair 2 feet from police and knitted a red hat for charity.
“It’s a matter of patriotic duty to be here and resist the evil that is ICE,” said Jean, who took the bus to the ICE facility like she does every Thursday to participate in meditation walks. But this time when she was greeted by a different scene, she decided to join in.
The sign on her lap read “refugees welcome.” Jean said she comes from a family with three generations in the military.
“A police state is not what they served their country for,” she said.
Members of Occupy ICE PDX said participants engaged in nonviolent protest as the front of the building was being cleared.
“We know that the world is watching, and we are holding strong,” a statement from the group said.
The group claims Department of Homeland Security officers have tried to “arouse and disorient and disrupt protestors” in the nights before Thursday’s sweep.
They allege officers blasted “Enter Sandman” by Metallica, mimicked shooting protester with their hands, mocked protesters while standing on the building’s roof, shone flashlights onto protesters from the building’s window and flew drones over the camp.
Robert Sperling, a Federal Protective Service spokesman, said officers were playing music while eating dinner Wednesday. He denied the other allegations.
The site was cleared by around 7:30 a.m., and federal vehicles could be seen entering the driveway to the building.
At some point, seven protesters were detained for blocking the building entrance and later released. Some of their arms were linked together with tubing and duct tape that had to be cut off.
The people, who haven’t yet been identified, were cited by the Federal Protective Service on misdemeanor charges and are due to appear in federal court Sept. 7.
The eighth person was arrested on suspicion of interfering with a police officer and booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center in downtown Portland, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oregon.
A driver in an SUV passing by the ICE building was also stopped after officers spotted what appeared to be firearms inside. The items were actually three airsoft guns. That person was detained and released without being charged, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Sperling said none of the encounters between officers and protestors was violent. He also said there were no plans to completely clear the encampment off the federal building property, and that officers will continue to stay there to make sure the building reopens without incident.
It is not immediately clear if the building has reopened. Two ICE spokespeople told The Oregonian/OregonLive that they were trying to determine if the building would return to normal operations Thursday, Friday or another date.
Roberta Altstadt, spokeswoman for TriMet, which owns and leases out much of the property near the ICE headquarters, said the agency is “checking with property partners” after the Thursday morning action.
Mayor Ted Wheeler said in a statement Thursday that Portland police officers helped manage traffic after federal officers blocked the road near the ICE building but didn’t aid in the clearing of the property. He said he’s “outraged” by the practice of separating migrant children from their families and supports peaceful protest on the matter.
“The City of Portland does not enforce federal immigration law,” Wheeler said, “and I have been clear that Portland will not be used to break up a nonviolent occupation on federal property of a federal agency that has its own police force.”
Everton Bailey Jr. of The Oregonian/OregonLive staff contributed to this report.
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