U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers asked Portland, Oregon, Mayor Ted Wheeler to give up his authority over the city’s police Wednesday and face investigation for his handling of this summer’s violent Occupy ICE protests, saying Wednesday that he broke state laws and violated Americans’ civil rights.
The National ICE Council, the union that represents ICE harassed and menaced during the protests, asked both U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session and Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum to open investigations into Mr. Wheeler’s behavior.
Portland’s protests were the most disruptive ones during a nationwide outbreak of anti-ICE activities, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers put the blame on Mr. Wheeler, saying he had a chance to cool things down but instead fueled violence with his orders to police instructing them not to respond to calls related to the Occupy protest unless they involved an immediate threat to someone’s life.
The ICE officers say 911 calls from employees who were being followed or targeted by protesters were either ignored or given short shrift by officers, and ICE had to shut down its office in the city for weeks.
“Instead of faithfully executing his oath of office and pledge to support the Constitutions of the United States and Oregon, as well as the laws of Portland, Mayor Wheeler chose to leave his fellow citizens to fend for themselves for over a month against a lawless mob which included violent militant groups,” Mr. Crane said.
In the letter to Oregon’s attorney general Sean J. Riddell, the ICE Council’s lawyer, said Mr. Wheeler’s leadership of the police has been tainted.
“Our hope is that Mr. Wheeler relinquishes his supervisory authority of the Portland Police Bureau pending the outcome of your investigation,” the lawyer said.
Neither Mr. Wheeler’s office nor the Oregon attorney general’s office returned messages sent Wednesday morning seeking comment.
Text messages obtained by the ICE Council show the mayor’s office issuing its directive to the Portland Police Bureau to avoid responding to calls from those involved in or targeted by the protest.
“Here’s where our office stands: The mayor will provide strategic direction to PPB. He will not dictate tactics[,] we will leave that to the expertise of PPB. In this case, the mayor’s strategic direction is for PPB to not get involved unless lives are in danger,” read one message the ICE officers obtained.
A follow-up email showed the police decided that meant they would not “proactively patrol” the protest, and would only respond to calls “that have an immediate life safety concern.” That meant ignoring calls from ICE employees trying to get their cars out of parking lots blocked by protesters unless they felt they were specifically threatened, the email said.
Mr. Crane says he tried to work things out with Mr. Wheeler directly over the summer, with his lawyer sending a cease-and-desist letter to the mayor.
In a July 31 response, Mr. Wheeler disputed the ICE officers’ version of events.
He denied there was a policy of refusing to answer calls from ICE employees — though he said it was up to the federal government to police its own property in the city.
Mr. Wheeler said he didn’t want his officers “to be engaged or sucked into a conflict for the purpose of securing federal property that houses a federal agency with their own federal police force.”
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