The Trump administration’s military occupation of Portland has expanded into the public right-of-way. And so far, the City of Portland is letting it happen.
Today, federal employees installed a massive steel fence anchored by concrete barricades around the U.S. courthouse on Southwest Main. The wall creates a complete blockage of a city-owned sidewalk and travel lane. Bicycle riders are being forced out of the bike lane and into the adjacent lane and people on foot are walking in the roadway (toward oncoming traffic).
The wall is just the latest unwanted incursion by federal troops since they arrived in Portland in late June and it demonstrates their continued disregard for local laws, property, and human life. City streets are public assets and should not be permitted to be used by federal authorities without a clear explanation or justification.
Portland’s transportation bureau requires permits for anyone who uses a public street or sidewalk. No signage is present on SW Main to warn road users of the upcoming closure and there is no lane or sidewalk closure permit displayed. We’ve asked the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) if they processed a permit for this closure but they have not yet responded. A map hosted by PBOT that shows temporary right-of-way closure permits does not include this block of Main and 3rd.
It’s unclear who, if anyone, gave the Department of Homeland Security permission to use City of Portland property for their wall.
A variety of fences have been installed over the past several weeks to protect the courthouse from the nightly onslaught of outraged Portlanders who are fed up with these unaccountable and unhinged military troopers who are aiding Donald Trump’s disturbing march toward fascism.
We are 55 days into nightly protests, marches, and brutality from local police and federal troops. Most of the violent assaults on Portlanders have taken place on PBOT-owned right-of-way and police have repeatedly used “clogging traffic” or “impeding traffic” as a pretext to forcibly move — and often assault — non-violent protestors. PBOT manages and owns these spaces but the agency has done nothing to defend them, they have not asserted their authority in any way, and they have not issued any public statements to reaffirm Portlanders’ statutory rights to use streets and constitutional rights to assemble in them.
This incursion into City of Portland-owned public right-of-way should be taken seriously. The federal authorities are intentionally limiting access to streets being used to exercise constitutionally-protected free speech rights. Everyone — whether they’re on foot, on bike, or using a personal mobility devices — should feel confident that they can safely move around downtown. This is especially true when people need safe, ADA-accessible escape routes to avoid being shot at by heavily armed, trigger-happy federal troops.
On July 19th, the Portland Fire Bureau issued a statement making it clear that federally contracted law enforcement agents, “Were not, and will not ever, be allowed to use fire stations for their tactical operations.” The Fire Bureau is led by City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty who has become an increasingly stalwart opponent of local and federal police abusing their power.
I’ve asked PBOT Commissioner Chloe Eudaly’s office for a response to this issue. So far they’ve deferred to PBOT.
UPDATE, 7/23: We’ve learned (thanks to a commenter below) that the USA owns the right of way around this building up to the curb line. This means they wouldn’t need a permit for the sidewalk closure. The issue of using Portland-owned street space remains.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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