Portland’s mayor violated the Constitution by ordering his police officers to stand down, allowing protesters to menace ICE employees over the last six weeks, according to agency employees who sent a cease-and-desist letter to the city Monday.
The Oregon city has been at the forefront of nationwide anti-ICE protests this summer, after Mayor Ted Wheeler encouraged Occupy ICE, saying he supported their cause and didn’t want Portland’s police to interfere with their demonstration.
That left protesters free to shut down the building leased by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, build an encampment on nearby land, and mount a harassment campaign against employees to further the anti-ICE movement’s demands for the federal agency’s abolition.
Some employees were even denied police assistance after they’d left the ICE building, officers said, including one man, a disabled Marine veteran, who was followed and confronted as he went to pick up his daughter from her day camp.
“When the mayor gave the order that police would not support ICE employees trapped in the facility, he turned the lives of our employees over to an angry mob,” said Chris Crane, president of the National ICE Council, which had its lawyer send the cease-and-desist letter.
“The mayor stated publicly that he supported the protests, which were supposed to be about protecting immigrant families. But what about the moms and dads that we had working in that building? What about their kids?” Mr. Crane told The Washington Times. “These are questions that we’ll be expecting the mayor and city of Portland to be answering in the days to come.”
The cease-and-desist letter says Mr. Wheeler’s stand-down order to city policy “created a zone of terror and lawlessness.” The letter demands he apologize, agree to a meeting and make clear that city police have a duty to respond to citizens in need — even if they work for a federal agency. The letter warns of a lawsuit if the mayor’s response isn’t satisfactory.
Mr. Wheeler’s office said city attorneys are “reviewing the letter.”
Last week, in a press conference, Mr. Wheeler said he supported the protesters and their anti-ICE message. Still, in comments reported by OregonLive.com, he said the encampment went on too long, and left “piles of garbage” which he said “deters from the main message” the anti-ICE protesters wanted to deliver.
— Elise Haas (@EliseKOIN) July 25, 2018
That message included pulling down the building’s U.S. flag, carrying anti-riot shields, and even using homemade spike strips to try to damage employees’ cars, one ICE officer said.
Portland’s protests were the most violent of a series of nationwide outbursts against ICE, fueled by anger at President Trump’s get-tough border policies.
The situation quickly spiraled out of hand, growing from a small group of protests into a massive “occupy” encampment that shut down ICE’s rented building from June 20 to June 28, when federal police gathered enough manpower to retake control. The encampment continued for weeks afterward.
Mr. Wheeler turned on the protesters last week and ordered them to disband.
While the protesters’ story has been well-documented, the ICE employees who were first trapped inside their building, then later were blockaded from entering it for a week, have not gotten as much attention.
Now they are beginning to talk about the harassment they faced even when outside the office.
One ICE employee recounted to The Times the harassment of a disabled Marine veteran who was interning at the office on the first full day of the protests. He was managed to get around the blockade to pick up his daughter but only after his car was scratched and tires slashed. He then was followed to the camp.
The veteran’s initial calls for police assistance were ignored. He was allowed to make a report on the damage to his vehicle, but after he called to report being followed, police told him they were staying out of the matter, the ICE source told The Washington Times.
“When it comes to basic police protection that should transcend politics,” the employee said, laying blame at the feet of the mayor. “It comes down to life and death. He was irresponsible.”
The ICE employee also described indecision on the part of Homeland Security in the early hours, saying the department missed a chance to defuse the situation when the core of troublemakers amounted to just a few people.
ICE officers and agents were gearing up to assist the Federal Protective Service — but bureaucrats up the chain of command put things on hold and by the time they got the go-ahead the protest had swelled to more than five dozen people, and was no longer controllable.
Mr. Crane wondered why the Trump administration and Congress haven’t done more to defend ICE in the battle with the mayor.
“For now, a handful of ICE officers and staff are taking this mayor and city on all by ourselves,” he said. “We’ll fight alone for the rule of law and safety of our employees nationwide if that’s what it takes, but someone on our side would be a welcome change moving forward.”
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