Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said Monday that the presence of federal authorities in Portland, Oregon, as protests continue in the city is “not consistent” with the Department of Homeland Security’s mission.
Ridge, a Republican who was the first Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said the first words of the department’s vision statement that he helped establish are “preserving our freedoms.”
“When they appear to be quasi-military rather than law enforcement, I think it’s like pouring a little bit of gasoline on the fire,” Ridge told CNN.
“Preserving the right to dissent is something very important,” he said, though he noted that “you can’t justify the violence” that has accompanied the protests.
Ridge’s comments come as violent crackdowns on protesters have punctuated a summer that’s been rocked by protests against police brutality and racial injustice.
The scene in Portland intensified earlier this month when President Donald Trump sent federal agents to the city to protect federal property. Protesters in Portland view the federal intervention and use of military-like force as an occupation of their city.
This weekend, as the ongoing protests in Portland heightened, law enforcement agents continued to deploy tear gas and flash bangs, CNN reported. It’s unclear if police or a federal agency released the gas.
Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of Homeland Security, tweeted that six DHS officers were injured Friday night.
Last week, Ridge criticized Trump’s “reality TV approach” of sending federal agents to US cities to quell protests. He also said “it would be a cold day in hell” before he would “consent to a unilateral, uninvited intervention,” in one of his cities.
Monday, Ridge noted the “political sniping going back and forth,” between the federal and local government in Portland.
Ridge, who was also a former governor of Pennsylvania said, “I say this as not a Secretary of Homeland Security but as a governor, that the federal gover
nment and the state government and the local governments work together to diffuse the situation. It’s too hot.”
Ridge added that Trump should call on his vice president, former Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who has been in the position of leading a state government before.
“He understands the importance of integrating the federal, the state and local teams to help to diffuse the situation,” Ridge said of Pence.
“The President, call on your vice president, he’s been in this position before, to help defuse the situation, before it gets absolutely out of control, and it’s close to that right now,” Ridge added.