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Feds erect wall on city-owned street, blocking travel lane on SW Main

Posted by on July 22nd, 2020 at 4:56 pm

(The fence completely blocks a travel lane on SW Main and partially blocks a lane on SW 3rd. Photos by Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

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.

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A woman got stuck behind an illegally parked truck on SW Main and waved a driver past.


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.

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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 jonathan@bikeportland.org
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maccoinnichToby Keithq'TzalChris IRain Waters Recent comment authors
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Nathan Hinkle
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Nathan Hinkle

You can see the permits PBOT has issued online, and there is none issued at this location. https://pdx.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=a367ce94ec894beabb5c692bea63db75

Todd/Boulanger
Guest

What about the Federal ADA law?

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Might I assume you have a high tolerance for ennui? Here’s a link (among many) for Federal (DOJ & USDOT) ADA building requirements: https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/retrieveECFR?gp=1&SID=8093e6c19b7f7cca77196f0cd92a4fc4&ty=HTML&h=L&mc=true&n=pt36.3.1191&r=PART#ap36.3.1191_11.d

In it, is a lot of:
206.2.2 Within a Site. At least one accessible route shall connect accessible buildings, accessible facilities, accessible elements, and accessible spaces that are on the same site.

Exception: An accessible route shall not be required between accessible buildings, accessible facilities, accessible elements, and accessible spaces if the only means of access between them is a vehicular way not providing pedestrian access.

Todd/Boulanger
Guest

Great “word of the day”: ennui. Now everyone use it in a sentence.

qqq
Guest
qqq

I forgot to feed my dog and he became ennui?

qqq
Guest
qqq

The section you quoted doesn’t really have anything to do with this situation. It’s for situations such as campuses that have multiple buildings on the same site, a site with a parking lot, etc. I’m assuming the building is closed, so that eliminates the applicability of many ADA standards.

I don’t know how the ADA applies to the sidewalk network, but that’s where the real practical problems lie, and if they’re not ADA issues, they’re PBOT issues. With no PBOT review, I doubt they did all the things PBOT would require when sidewalks are closed off–placing “sidewalk closed” or “detour” signs on opposite corners to ensure people don’t cross onto that closed block and walk along the fence in the street (as in the photos) for instance.

rick
Guest
rick

As if ADA law is being obeyed on sidewalks in Chinatown in Portland?

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

Full lane use is authorized

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

When did Portland succeed from the union? Technically, if you are still part of the union, then the entire state is under federal jurisdiction, has been since 1846 (i.e. 12 years before statehood.)

So when is the attack start on the Pioneer Courthouse, that other famous Portland federal structure?

Hotrodder
Guest
Hotrodder

You firebombed your own argument within four words in my opinion, and never recovered. Sorry, I just don’t have patience for this anymore.

As for the feds putting up walls on Main, well, It just doesn’t seem like any of this escalation is going to end well at all. I’m so far removed from being angry anymore. Just tired. I feel like crawling in a hole.

But tonight’s protest will bear watching. I guess I’ll get ready to head downtown later….maybe I can shake off this ennui with a lungful of teargas and some flashbangs to keep me alert.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Donald’s counting on you to help him win the coming election by doing your part in participating in the protests. Headlines of “Masked White Mob Attacks Black and Latino Federal Forces” will go down well here in the Deep South. I dare say our local chapters of the KKK are impressed enough that they are already on their way to Portland to help out, since the enemy (Portland protesters) of their enemy (the federal government) must be their friend.

Have a nice evening!

Paul
Guest
Paul

Donald is miscalculating. Polling shows this conflict is hurting him. Most people are sympathetic to the protesters and appalled by the heavy-handed reaction of the federal goverment.

Concordia Cyclist
Guest
Concordia Cyclist

Sorry, but as long as the current administration is running the federal government, those local chapters you speak of are fully supportive of the feds. Their continual rhetoric about “personal freedoms” and “government tyranny” has been laid bare by their current silence. Have another right wing trope you’d like demolished?

Another Engineer
Guest
Another Engineer

David you may want to read up on the Commerce Clause and how it clearly doesn’t apply in this situation.

MaddHatter
Guest
MaddHatter

Perhaps more applicable here is the Tenth Amendment. States, Oregon included, did not unconditionally give up their sovereignty when joining the United States, and the federal government’s power is limited by design, because our founders had a lot of reasons to distrust broad power consolidated and vested into few people.

dan
Guest
dan

When did Portland succeed from the union?

Always! When has Portland not succeeded?

Racer X
Guest
Racer X

I guess the Feds (not Trump) are sad they located their building in downtown Portland…out at the Airport or Wapato Jail or even downtown Vancouver might have been ‘safer’ for everyone…

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

The TSA is already at the airport, as is customs and the Oregon Air National Guard (paid for by the US Air Force). They have similar facilities in Vancouver WA, as in any city of any significance.

What is the Wapato Jail being used for now? A chop shop?

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

I think we just found a use for Wapato…

And then convert the justice center into housing. Win-win.

X
Guest
X

The “Justice Center” is “housing” several people. Funny how useful my Newspeak glossary has become.

qqq
Guest
qqq

Those horizontal projections on the ground at the base of the fence are just deadly. When I saw the video, I thought they were shadows, which people riding or driving by may assume also, if they see them at all. What I imagine is someone biking in the lane (because they have to) with a driver coming up behind or alongside them assuming the biker will move over towards the fence. Then the bike’s wheel gets caught and flips the rider into traffic to get run over.

I recall discussions about storm grates and erosion control bags that are dangerous. This blows those concerns away in comparison. Just talking about safety, not adding in the federal takeover aspect.

David Carlsson
Guest
David Carlsson

Mr. wheeler, tear down that wall!

Paul
Guest
Paul

Don’t worry, protesters will tear it down like they have torn down all the rest. This wall may be bigger and stronger than previous ones, but there are plenty of people involved with the expertise and will to get it done.

Matt
Guest
Matt

I believe the federal land extends into the street so you’d have to look at the original property lines and the easement back to the city for the street. They may not require permitting.

MaddHatter
Guest
MaddHatter

Anybody know where we could check that?

Even if it is federal property, a grant of easement generally means a right of traversal to the grantee, and putting up fences is the prototypical example of blocking that right. So was the easement grant conditional? Revocable? Otherwise I think Portland would be within its rights to demand the fences come down, even despite it being federal property.

nic.cota
Subscriber

I just checked portlandmaps.com and to my surprise, yeah…The UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (literal owner for the property) owns the property to the curb line for the entire block. Very unconventional in Portland…

maccoinnich
Subscriber

Good catch. I’ve never seen that before. The sidewalk was vacated by City Council in 1994, in advance of the construction of the courthouse. Here’s the ordinance. The City of Portland has an easement on the sidewalks, but it doesn’t seem to cover pedestrian access.

qqq
Guest
qqq

Speaking of good catches, that’s great you found that. Look at conditions 4 and 5 on page 3. 4 grants the City a public easement for pedestrian use of the sidewalk. 5 agrees the City retains police power over the sidewalk area.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

So our mayor could dispatch PBOT crews to remove the fences in the City ROW?

maccoinnich
Subscriber

Oh, I missed that. Very interesting.

qqq
Guest
qqq

https://www.portlandmaps.com/detail/property/1030-WI-SW-3RD-AVE/R246000_did/

You can also click the airplane icon to get the aerial photo view. Looks like the federal government owns the several parcels that make up the block, all the way to the curbs. So they own the sidewalk. But the barricades are way into the street, and per the other comment, there must be some type of easement the City has to allow use of the sidewalk for the public.

Dead Salmon
Guest
Dead Salmon

If you vandalize, loot, commit arson or other crime on federal property you can expect attention from federal law enforcement, whether in PDX or in a National Park. Since the city/county/state are sitting on their asses allowing blatant criminal activity on federal property the feds are obligated to stop it. The people of the USA paid for that federal property and the feds will not allow Portland criminals to destroy it without a fight. They are doing the right thing.

People pay HUGE taxes to the county and state for law enforcement, and for that money they expect the police TO DO THEIR JOBS, and stop criminals when the crimes are happening in plain sight! If the police are incapable of doing their job WE WILL FIND OTHERS WHO ARE CAPABLE, and that won’t be hard to do.

Think of the many businesses in Portland who can’t do business because the local and state “authorities” are a bunch of useless losers.

CaptainKarma
Guest
CaptainKarma

Like at Malheur?

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

And who cares if a few unarmed minorities die in the fray, right?

MaddHatter
Guest
MaddHatter

If the federal law enforcement stuck to federal property, I think there’d be less of an issue. But when they’re roaming well off their property, ignoring jurisdiction and the legal bounds of their authority, pursuing political and campaign goals instead of protecting people and property, and taking actions that would be unconstitutional regardless of authority, then people rightly demand their overreach be curbed.

As for what local police are doing or not, there’s recourse in choosing who becomes mayor and/or police commissioner, and the nice thing about local politics is the scale is small enough for your voice to be heard and have an impact without spending millions of dollars. Of course, a lot of other local voices right now are lobbying for a different approach, and so persuading others to your cause is critical to being effective.

q'Tzal
Guest
q'Tzal

Their wall keeps them in too.

I wonder how they get food.
I wonder how long they can keep their electronic devices charged and running if power was cut like they do in hostage situations. They are holding JUSTICE hostage.

If they really want a medieval castle siege then I hope they already have their own Jim Jones Kool-aid stocked because the building isn’t tall enough for jumping out of windows to work.

CaptainKarma
Guest
CaptainKarma

Trump desperate enough to roll tanks.

X
Guest
X

Are you talking about the Federal Courthouse? It’s hundreds of feet tall. The courtroom lobbies appear to be about 25-30 ft high, for instance. I think the ICE troops should maybe quit their jobs for shame, but your suicide thing is a little far out.

The “wall” is only around the front part of the building, not including a loadind dock, parking garage entrance, and at least one other vehicle door.

There’s at least one restaurant kitchen in the building.

q'Tzal
Guest
q'Tzal

In a traditional castle siege people inside the fortification do not get in nor out in any significant amount; individual people were often able surrender to the external force. Rather than directly attacking a well defended fortification the attacking force surrounds the fortification and waits until their food runs out.
A kitchen COOKS food; it does not CREATE food. Their food will run out.

If their electricity is cut off then there is only so long that they can keep radios & phones charged. Without communication they will become very much less effective and totally cut off from upstream cheerleading propaganda.

As for the height: unless you land on your head on a hard surface falling from 2 or 3 stories usually isn’t immediately fatal if at all. Certainly there would be critical injuries but that is a slowly painful way to die if that was your goal.

And yes, I firmly believe that the republican death cult is who we are seeing here. These cue-änon böógålôo gun worshiping nutjobs desperately WANT a bloody all out civil war. Giving them direct violence is what they WANT.
If they are stopped through any form of demoralization, deprivation or philosophical conversion then they are defeated by NOT giving them what they want.

They want to attack us but more importantly they want to be SEEN being attacked.

Toby Keith
Guest
Toby Keith

Very bizarre postings here and what sounds almost like threats against a federal facility. I think they’d like to hear about this.

Bikeninja
Guest
Bikeninja

I expect that worse is yet to come. As this fence looks like it is portable and moveable I expect that in coming days they will expand it to create a larger ,”green zone,” like the one where the U.S. embassy is in Baghdad. They will want room for barracks, a drone base and a couple of fast food franchises operated by KBR to feed Trumps goons.

Rain Waters
Guest
Rain Waters

You forgot the gallows for those public executions when the Chinese walk in to create a peaceful example for Hong Kong etc. . .

qqq
Guest
qqq

A side issue–A year or so ago, Trump went on a crusade about the architectural style of Federal buildings. He wants them all to be Neoclassical–white marble, columns, pediments, etc. He and the Federal staff said some derogatory things about modern buildings–basically they’re all ugly and modern architecture has no place being used for federal buildings.

The Federal Courthouse here is unabashedly modern, done by a New York firm (KPF) known for that style. It’d be worth looking up Trump’s comments, and quoting them,and asking, “Why are you so interested in protecting a building done in a style you said has no redeeming value?” Best would be if he’d been quoted saying the modern buildings should be torn down, but I don’t believe he went quite that far.

pruss2ny
Guest
pruss2ny

a little off topic..but Wheeler showed up at a peaceful protest surrounded by un-identifiable police bodyguards?

How is this not absurdist?

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

Maybe the cops were embarrassed to be seen with Wheeler.