Acting Homeland Security secretary Chad Wolf is urging Portland mayor Ted Wheeler to accept federal assistance after months of unrest in the city, warning in a letter on Monday that the federal government “will have no choice but to protect our American citizens” if the chaos continues unchecked.
“I urge you to prioritize public safety and to request federal assistance to restore law and order in Portland,” Wolf wrote in the letter dated August 31. “We are standing by to support Portland. At the same time, President Trump has made it abundantly clear that there will come a point when state and local officials fail to protect its citizens from violence, the federal government will have no choice but to protect our American citizens.”
Portland has been plagued by months of violent rioting and protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death. As of July 31, local law enforcement had arrested 255 people and declared 23 riots and unlawful assemblies, according to DHS. Unrest in the city turned deadly recently as Antifa clashed with right-wing counter-protesters.
“Due to a lack of action throughout the summer, Portland and its law-abiding residents continue to suffer from large-scale looting, arson, and vandalism — even killing. Businesses remain shuttered and Portlanders are held hostage by the daily violence that has gripped the city with no end in sight,” Wolf said.
Wolf criticized Wheeler for suggesting that the unrest would “ultimately burn itself out,” saying “the evidence demonstrates otherwise.”
“The chaos, destruction, and suffering in Portland are evils you can stop—and must stop,” Wolf said. “Consider what happened recently in Wisconsin—where the State of Wisconsin requested and received federal law enforcement assistance and the violence and looting there ended.”
Wolf’s letter is an apparent response to a letter Wheeler sent President Trump on August 28 in which the mayor rejected the president’s offer to send federal law enforcement to the city.
Wheeler said that Portland didn’t need the president’s “politics of division and demagoguery.”
“Portlanders are onto you,” Wheeler wrote. “We have already seen your reckless disregard for human life in your bumbling response to the COVID pandemic. And we know you’ve reached the conclusion that images of violence or vandalism are your only ticket to reelection.”