PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf joined CBS This Morning on Thursday to discuss the federal presence in Portland.
In his interview, Wolf accused Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler of supporting violent protesters. Wheeler joined in on the protests Wednesday night in an attempt to speak with demonstrators and before the night ended, he was among those hit with tear gas by federal officers.
“There [is] both peaceful protesting going on in Portland and very violent criminal activity going on in Portland and the mayor chose to go to that violent activity,” Wolf said. “He has legitimized criminal behavior by doing that.”
Wheeler said it was the first time he’d been tear gassed and appeared slightly dazed and coughed as he put on a pair of goggles someone handed him and drank water. He didn’t leave his spot at the front, however, and continued to take gas.
Also in his interview, Wolf denied the notion that the federal officers are inflaming the protests in the city. Portland has now seen 55 nights of protests, some of which have been declared as riots in recent weeks. It was not until federal officers hit the ground, however, that a significant resurgence in the number of people joining the demonstrations began to take place.
Earlier this week, the number of protesters in Portland reached the thousands.
DHS says the operation in Portland is separate from President Trump’s announcement Wednesday that he’s surging hundreds of federal agents to cities he says are plagued by violent crime. Under Operation Legend, the Department of Justice is sending 200 agents to Chicago and about 35 to Albuquerque to work with violent crime task forces that are already working with local police.