PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Over 100 federal officers with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have been sent to Portland, Oregon, in recent days.
That has brought protest from many, including a number of mayors like Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, who said on Wednesday that he’d fight in court any such effort to send federal agents here.
Now the nation’s first secretary of Homeland Security, former Pa. Gov. Tom Ridge, says he’d likely resign rather than use DHS forces in this way.
Violence in Portland, often directed against their federal building, has sparked controversy on the use of federal Homeland Security forces over the strong objections of the city’s mayor and the state’s governor.
“These police officers are not stormtroopers. They are not the Gestapo, as some have described them,” says Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf.
But federal police presence without the consent of local and state officials brought strong condemnation from Ridge.
“It would be a cold day in hell before I would consent or agree to the unsolicited, uninvited intervention in any of my cities,” Ridge told KDKA political editor Jon Delano. “I certainly don’t favor that kind of action, and certainly don’t think DHS was designed for that purpose to start with.”
Ridge urged President Donald Trump to work with state and local officials, not against them.
“We have strength in numbers. And unified, we could probably accomplish more than him acting independently,” Ridge said.
But Acting DHS Secretary Wolf says local police aren’t doing the job.
“What we know is that if we left tomorrow, they would burn that building down,” says Wolf.
Still, says Ridge, the DHS was created to combat terrorism after 9/11, not to be a federal police force.
“From my point of view, it wasn’t designed to become the president’s personal militia and so it is somewhat troubling,” he said.
Ridge told KDKA that if he had been secretary and a president ordered him to send DHS forces into an American city, he might have resigned.
“This is a tough one to accept as an individual, let alone as governor and former secretary of DHS,” Ridge said.
Ridge cited the example of Elliott Richardson, “one of the people I admired greatly in the history of American politics.”
Richardson resigned as attorney general rather than carry out what he believed was an “unconstitutional” order from President Richard Nixon to fire the special prosecutor in the Watergate scandle.