ICE officers demand Portland mayor apologize for ‘Occupy ICE’ chaos
ICE officers sent a cease-and-desist letter Monday to the mayor in Portland, Oregon, demanding he apologize for ordering city police to stand down as protesters ravaged the immigration agency’s headquarters and menaced its employees.
Agency employees say they were harassed, followed and had their personal vehicles damaged when protesters tried to block them from leaving. They say Portland police refused to respond, under orders from Mayor Ted Wheeler, who said he backed the protesters over the feds.
With police on the sidelines the Occupy ICE protesters shut down U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s building on Macadam Avenue for a week in June and manned an encampment to continue harassing employees for more than a month.
“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 mom’s and dad’s that we had working in that building? What about their kids? These are questions that we’ll be expecting the mayor and city of Portland to be answering in the days to come.”
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 through June 28, when federal police finally gathered enough manpower to retake control. The encampment continued for weeks afterward.
Mr. Wheeler finally turned on the protesters last week and ordered them to disband.
Mr. Crane said ICE employees’ lives were at risk in the early days of the protests, when they blocked the building’s entrances and refused to let people leave. If the rioters had decided to break into the building or to light a fire, “it was theirs for the taking, along with the lives of our employees,” he said.
The mayor’s anti-ICE edict extended even after employees had left the building, according to witnesses who said employees tried to get help after they were followed or had their vehicles damaged, only to be told police wouldn’t get involved at all.
The cease-and-desist letter says Mr. Wheeler’s order “created a zone of terror and lawlessness.” The letter demands he apologize, agree to a meeting and make clear that city policy have a duty to respond to citizens in need even if they work for a federal agency.
Mr. Wheeler’s office said lawyers 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 were trying to deliver.
That message included pulling down the building’s American flag, carrying anti-riot shields and even using homemade spike strips to try to damage employees’ cars, one ICE officer said.
That employee recounted the story of a disabled Marine who was working in the office on the first day of the protests, who was blocked when he tried to leave the building to pick up his daughter from camp, managed to get around the blockade but only after his car was scratched and tires slashed, then was followed to the camp.
His 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.
“I know everything’s politicized, but when it comes to basic police protection that should transcend politics,” the ICE officer said, laying blame at the feet of the mayor. “It comes down to life and death. He was irresponsible.”
Mr. Crane, speaking to The Times, also wondered why the Trump administration and Congress didn’t do more to defend ICE in the battle with the city.
“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 six would be a welcome change moving forward.”