It’s been nearly a week since federal officers withdrew from guarding Portland’s federal courthouse during nightly protests, but a large fence they installed is still there and city officials say it remains illegal.
The city of Portland continues to impose a $500 fine every 15 minutes for the fence, which was erected in the public right-of-way without a permit around the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse on Southwest Third Avenue. As of noon Wednesday, the fine will hit $584,000.
“The fence is currently still in place,” Margaux Weeke, spokesperson for City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, said Tuesday. “I’d have to refer you to the federal government for their rationale as to why the fence is still obstructing our traveling lane.”
Department of Homeland Security officials did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Last week, Eudaly announced that her transportation bureau would impose the highest possible fine on the federal government for erecting the fence without a permit in the bike lane in front of the courthouse.
Weeke said the city attorney’s office has been in touch with the Department of Homeland Security, which spearheaded the controversial escalation in federal activity outside the courthouse in recent weeks, spurred on by the Trump administration’s false claims that the courthouse was in danger of being destroyed by protesters.
Eudaly last week described the federal officials as “occupiers” and said normally her bureau would remove the unpermitted fence. But she didn’t feel it would be safe for city workers to do so with federal officials in town.
It’s unclear why the city isn’t removing the fence now that those federal officers are no longer leading the nightly law enforcement response and many of their ranks have left town.
Dylan Rivera, a spokesperson for the Portland Bureau of Transportation, said the bureau was in close contact with the city attorney on the fence issue. The fine sparked some legal observers to question whether the city could legally fine the federal government.
When asked that question, Tracy Reeve, the Portland city attorney, declined to comment.
Rivera said that while “it can be difficult to hold the federal government accountable, it is important for PBOT to stand up for all Portlanders who have the right to use their streets without federal interference.”
Weeke said despite federal officials being made aware of the fine, the city has received no formal response to its July 23 cease and desist letter.
— Andrew Theen
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