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Federal officers move to reopen Portland ICE building closed over protests

The Occupy Ice PDX protesters, who were rallying against President Trump’s immigration policies, set up camp at the ICE facility more than a week ago.

Federal officers in riot gear moved to reopen an Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters in Oregon early Thursday following a blockade and occupation by protesters.

Eight protesters were arrested during the clash at the ICE facility in Portland, according to Federal Protective Service spokesman Rob Sperling.

The officers were brought in at around 5:30 a.m. (8:30 a.m. ET), according to the Federal Protective Service.

“We have a number of officers with FPS, also law enforcement officers, who have pushed the demonstrators away from the main entry door,” Sperling told Reuters. “So we’ve cleared the main entrance point of the building and now we’re clearing debris.”

The Occupy Ice PDX protesters, rallying against President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, had set up camp at the ICE building more than a week ago with the message, “Abolish ICE.”

Lillith Sinclair, a protest camp organizer, told NBC affiliate KGW that her group wants ICE removed from Oregon and abolished all together. A small but growing number of progressive Democrats are signing onto calls to abolish the agency in the wake of Trump's immigration policies.

Protesters set up camp around U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement building on June 28, 2018 in Portland, Oregon. Federal officers arrested eight protesters while trying to reopen the building, that has been closed for more than a week because of a round-the-clock demonstration.Mark Graves / The Oregonian via AP

The ICE facility has been closed since June 20 after growing protests against Trump’s policy seeking to prosecute all adults who cross the border illegally, leading to the continued separation of more than 2,000 children from their parents.

Federal officers stood shoulder-to-shoulder in riot gear and with batons. Protesters occasionally went up to the officers with signs and talked or yelled at them, some shouting profanities, but the scene did not appear to be violent. Others at the scene loudly played Latin music.

“How would you feel is somebody took your kids?” one protester asked the officers.

“You all ought to be ashamed of yourselves,” another protester said.

The officers were clearing the entrance of the building, but did not appear to be taking action in nearby areas that were not blocking people from entering or leaving the facility, KGW reported. No injuries were immediately reported, according to KGW.

Truckloads of tents, boards, even a couch, were hauled away from the entrance of the ICE facility, according to the station.

Sperling told NBC affiliate KGW that while law enforcement moved in to stop the protesters from blocking federal property, they would not be removing protesters from a nearby camp that was located on public or private property.

A barricade crosses railroad track at a protest camp on property outside the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Portland, Oregon on June 25.Don Ryan / AP

"We don't want to impede their freedom of speech," he said.

He said federal officials had been providing protesters with written warnings over the last several days that they would have to stop blocking the building.

"Today, when we came in we said it's time to go," he said. "We gave them some warnings over loudspeakers giving them the opportunity to move back."

Sperling said the removal has been "mainly peaceful" and civil and that they hoped to have the ICE facility fully open next week.

On Tuesday night, a federal judge ordered that all separated families be reunited within 30 days and for the end of family separations. Trump signed an executive order last week to stop the family separations, but so far more than 2,000 remain away from their parents.

The family separations have led to a wave of protests nationwide in the last few weeks.