The head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday defended federal border agents who have cracked down on people in Portland protesting against police brutality and systemic racism, claiming they are making lawful arrests and are properly identifying themselves as law enforcement.
"We are only targeting and arresting those who have been identified as committing crime," Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said at a press conference, noting that "all officers are identified as police law enforcement officers."
CHAD WOLF: The Department's mission is very clear. We are charged with protecting federal facilities across the country. We began to see a rise in violent activity targeting federal facilities in late May in Portland coinciding with the death of George Floyd. Let me reiterate that the Department fully supports those who wish to peacefully protest.
Unfortunately, what we are seeing in Portland every night roughly from midnight to 4:30 or 5:00 AM is the complete opposite. These individuals congregate in the same area night after night. We see them planning their attacks. And yet the city of Portland takes little to no action to stop or disperse this crowd.
Department law enforcement officers are there to protect the symbol of justice at the courthouse. We mostly do that in a very defensive posture. However, we have been forced-- because of lack of local law enforcement presence-- to take measures such as arrests to protect our officials.
The law is clear on what our authority entails. Specifically, federal statute states that the secretary of Homeland Security-- and I'm quoting-- "shall protect buildings, grounds, and property that are owned, occupied, and secured by the federal government."
The law goes on to state that the Department can conduct investigations-- again, I'm quoting-- "on and off property in question on offenses that may have been committed against property owned and occupied by the federal government or persons on that property." In other words, we are expressedly allowed to leave federal property to conduct investigations and arrest individuals who have damaged federal property.
- It just makes common sense. We're not going to allow somebody to walk up to the federal property, assault a federal officer or agent, and then, because they walk off federal property, then we're going to say, oh, we can't go arrest you. Well, that doesn't make sense. Of course we're going to arrest you, and we have the authority to make that arrest. And we will continue to do that.
Look, I've been in law enforcement for almost three decades. The use of unmarked vehicles is a standard procedure, a standard practice among every local, state, and federal law enforcement agency in this country-- actually, in the world. It's nothing new.
So yea, I think not only is it a common practice among law enforcement, but also, in these circumstances, it makes sense to use an unmarked vehicle, not only first and foremost for the protection of the officers and agents doing their job to protect federal property and arresting criminals but also for the protection of the public.
- And the last thing I'd like--