E-mails obtained by conservative watchdog group, Judicial Watch through the Freedom of Information Act suggest that the Obama White House was involved in a Department of Homeland Security decision not to arrest Occupy Portland protesters who were camping illegally on federal property last fall.
A Nov. 6, 2011 e-mail exchange between DHS/National Protection and Programs Directorate Chief of Staff Caitlin Durkovich and General Services Administration Public Buildings Service Commissioner Robert Peck shows that the White House advised them to use their “discretion” in dealing with the protesters.
According to an e-mail obtained by Judicial Watch, Durkovich had asked GSA for advice on dealing with a group of 11 Occupy Portland protesters who had chained themselves to a concrete-filled drum in the federally owned Terry Shrunk Plaza.
“They have chained themselves to a large drum filled with concrete. GSA controls the permits and has asked FPS [Federal Protective Services] not to enforce the curfew at park and the prohibition on overnight encampments. Reporters have asked if we will be arresting the protestors as FPS did last week,” Durkovich wrote. “Our FPS Commander in Portland says they are standing down and following GSA’s request to only intervene if there is a threat to public safety.”
But Peck, who has since been fired, notes that the Portland Police had arrested 25 Occupy Portland protesters on Oct. 30, 2011, the week before the e-mail exchange, despite the Obama administration’s request that the Occupiers be allowed to remain in the park “as long as they did not pose a threat to life and public safety.”
“We are trying to be flexible, cognizant at the same time of first amendment rights to petition and our need to protect Federal property and federal building,” Peck wrote.
Peck furthermore advised Durkovich that DHS should only arrest the protesters if they threatened public safety and suggested that they did not because the adjacent federal building was being renovated and the protesters did not impede access to the building.
“We now have a new GSA scandal – one that involves the Obama White House,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. “These documents clearly show that federal agencies colluded with the Obama White House to allow the Occupy Wall Street protestors to violate the law with impunity. These documents tell us that the GSA and DHS can’t be relied upon to protect federal workers or property.”