Those protests, part of a nationwide movement against police brutality and racism, have been increasingly kinetic, with some protesters throwing fireworks and other objects at law enforcement officers protecting the federal courthouse. Law enforcement officials, in turn, have responded with tear gas and other controversial tactics.
DHS sent officers to Portland earlier this month to help protect the courthouse. But viral videos have captured their officers appearing to arrest protesters without probable cause. They have dressed in military garb and haven’t worn badges with their names or agencies––creating the optics of an occupying force. Local Portland officials decried DHS’s presence and said it made the protests even more intense.
It’s not the first time the I&A office, which shares intelligence with state and local partners, has come under scrutiny. When Murphy was second in command there, I&A shut down a team that focused on domestic terrorism, including white supremacists. The small office, which is one of the intelligence community’s 17 agencies, has struggled with morale problems for years.
Murphy, a veteran of the FBI before moving to DHS, had been helming the office in an acting capacity since May. His removal is unlikely to quell the scorching criticisms DHS faces for its response to the protests, but is still a significant step. Murphy did not respond to a quest for comment on his removal.