The Obama administration told law enforcement authorities to go easy on Occupy Wall Street protesters, even though they were violating local laws, according to documents obtained by watchdog group Judicial Watch.
Emails from the General Services Administration show that the federal agency, acting on orders from the White House, told federal law enforcement authorities in Portland, Ore., not to enforce curfews on protesters camped out on federal property. JudicialWatch.org obtained the emails through a Freedom of Information Act request lodged last year.
In one exchange from Nov. 6, 2011, officials from the Department of Homeland Security and the GSA discuss a group of 11 protesters camped out at the federally-owned Terry Schrunk Plaza.
'We have communicated with the [White House], which has afforded us the discretion to fashion our approach to Occupy issues.'
- Robert Peck, former GSA official in email
"They have chained themselves to a large drum filled with concrete,” reads an email from Department of Homeland Security/National Protection and Programs Directorate Chief of Staff Caitlin Durkovich to GSA Public Buildings Service Commissioner Robert Peck. “GSA controls the permits and has asked FPS [Federal Protective Services] not to enforce the curfew at park and the prohibition on overnight encampments…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,” she added in the email.
Peck -- who later resigned amid revelations his agency held lavish junkets at taxpayers' expense -- replied: “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…”
The arrests Peck referred to were carried out by Portland police in riot gear. Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said the emails show the White House was protecting Occupy protesters.
"We now have a new GSA scandal -- one that involves the Obama White House," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. "These documents clearly show that federal agencies colluded with the Obama White House to allow the Occupy Wall Street protesters 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."
In a written statement sent to FoxNews.com, a spokeswoman for the GSA responded, "The General Services Administration worked closely with the Portland Police Bureau and the Federal Protective Service (FPS) in maintaining the health and safety of the general public, protesters and federal employees during last year's Portland Occupy protests- however FPS and local law enforcement had the best understanding of the situation on the ground in Terry Schrunk Park, and determined the necessary action. "
The Occupy Wall Street movement began in lower Manhattan last September as a protest of wealth inequality and government corruption. The protester took inspiration for their protests from the Arab Spring and set up an encampment in Zuccotti Park near the Financial District.
The protests had spread with encampments set up in nearly every major city in North America and Europe.
Occupy Portland saw some of the more violent protests of the national movement. A week before the email exchange, 25 demonstrators were arrested after they refused to leave Jamison Square in the Pearl District after the park was closed at midnight. The arrests were the conclusion of an intense standoff that lasted until the early hours of the morning.