Documents obtained by Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, indicate that General Services Administration (GSA) officials, with approval from the Obama administration, ordered local law enforcement officers to stand down and not arrest Occupy Portland protesters after they seemingly broke the law last year.
The records, obtained by Judicial Watch pursuant to a November Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, include internal DHS correspondence.
On Nov. 6, 2011, DHS/National Protection and Programs Directorate Chief of Staff Caitlin Durkovich and GSA Public Buildings Service Commissioner Robert Peck, who has since been fired, communicated via email and specifically discussed Occupy Portland protests that were occurring on federal property in Portland. Durkovich wrote:
I am sorry to be emailing you on a Sunday night, but wanted to let you know our Press Shop has received a couple of calls from Portland media outlets about a group of 11 protesters who again set up camp at Terry Shrunk Plaza in Portland last night. 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.
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.
Caitlin: yes, that is our position; it’s been vetted with our Administrator and Michael Robertson, our chief of staff, and we have communicated with the WH [White House], which has afforded us the discretion to fashion our approach to Occupy issues…The arrests last week were carried out despite our request that the protesters be allowed to remain and to camp overnight…
Further, a week before this email exchange, the Oregonian reported that “Twenty-five Occupy Portland demonstrators were arrested… after refusing to leave Jamison Square. The arrests capped an intense hours-long standoff between police and dozens of protesters who refused to leave the Pearl District park after it was declared closed at midnight. Officers, some in riot gear and others on horses, faced off with protesters who remained in the square, despite being ordered to leave.”
Peck resigned from GSA earlier this year after it was discovered the agency spent $823,000 on a lavish Las Vegas “training conference,” which included a mind reader, clown and a $31,208 reception.
Though President Obama previously said he “understands” the frustrations of Occupy protesters, he and his administration have been careful not to openly promote the movement.
The Washington Examiner reports that the Obama White House denied on a number of occasions that nobody in the administration had given aid or encouragement to the protests last year, which many times inevitably degenerated into public and private property damage, drug use, violent crimes, including rape, and public health violations.
“We now have a new GSA scandal – one that involves the Obama White House,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton 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.”
Read the full report from Judicial Watch and take a look at the Occupy documents here.