A senior official at the Department of Homeland Security claimed a federal courthouse would have been burned down if federal police had not been there to defend it from rioters.
“If we had left, we all would have watched as a courthouse was taken over and burned to the ground,” acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan said during a webinar with the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank on Monday.
CBP was one of the federal law enforcement agencies whose personnel were deployed to Oregon in late June and early July following physical attacks to the Hatfield federal courthouse downtown, which federal law states must be protected by DHS’s Federal Protective Services officers. The FPS officers were unable to defend the building from commercial fireworks and arsonists, prompting deployments of tactical teams from CBP, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as the Justice Department’s U.S. Marshals Service.
In total, 21 federal courthouses nationwide have been vandalized this summer since largely peaceful protests commenced in dozens of cities following the death of George Floyd, who died while in Minneapolis police custody in late May. Portland has seen the most violence. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, both Democrats, described the violence as a result of DHS sending personnel to the area. Trump administration officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, agreed to pull DHS personnel from downtown if local and state police were increased outside the federal courthouse.
“If we have no absolutely no regard for the rule of law, it’s not going to dissipate. It’s going to get worse,” said Morgan. “We’ve seen monuments being torn down, and now we’re seeing the expansion of this. This is something that the American citizens really should be paying attention because if they can start expanding to the suburbs and other areas, we’re in a bad position.”
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