A source at Boeing Field witnessed two Department of Homeland Security planes land at the airport at around 5:10 p.m. this evening. Between 10 and 15 plain-clothed men disembarked from each* "along with lots of luggage," this person said. Metadata confirms the above photos were taken today at that time.
Earlier Thursday The New York Times reported that the Trump administration was sending "a team of tactical border officers to stand by for duty in Seattle" ahead of protests planned for this weekend. U.S. Customs and Border Protection operates this "Special Response Team," the Times reports.
I've got an email out to CBP and the Department of Homeland Security.
Update 8:23 p.m.: In a statement, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan confirmed "DHS now says they have a limited number of agents in the area on standby to protect federal buildings," even after Acting Secretary Chad Wolf told her "directly" this afternoon that he "has no plans–-and sees no need–-to send federal forces to Seattle."
Wolf committed to notifying Seattle Police Department Chief Carmen Best and Durkan "should that [plan] change," but neither Durkan nor Best have received such notification.
"Should federal forces intervene like they have in Portland, we are prepared to pursue every legal recourse. A federal judge in Portland has entered an order limiting the actions of federal forces there. We are prepared to seek the same relief if necessary," Durkan said.
In a Tweet, Gov. Inslee expressed concern that "anything could aggravate the situation," and that the federal government is not "listening to [Durkan] and [Best]."
"It is critical that the administration only provide what is needed by state and local officials, and do not engage unless asked," he said.
Though DHS has yet to confirm that the plane pictured above was carrying the members of the tactical team, it seems pretty likely. Computer, enhance:
Can confirm that two Department of Homeland Security P-3 Orions are in Seattle, having arrived ~1700 tonight. I can’t say what they’re here for with confidence, but both are outfitted for extensive data and intel gathering capabilities. https://t.co/EMH8eVVt2U pic.twitter.com/zelgZj3sgh
— JDL (@photoJDL) July 24, 2020
More from the Times on the plans for the agents:
A spokesman for the agency, who requested anonymity to speak about the operation, said the border officers were sent to back up the Federal Protective Service officers charged with protecting federal buildings, and would only be used if protests expected this weekend escalate out of control.
The Seattle Times reports that "The Youth Liberation Front Seattle Division...is planning a Saturday protest 'in solidarity with our comrades' in Portland." Rally starts around 1:00 p.m. at Pine and Broadway on Capitol Hill, with a march to follow. The Trump/Pence Out Now people plan another rally at 4:00 p.m. Saturday at Green Lake Park. If you see flyers for any other protests this weekend, slip them into my DMs.
Citizen journalist Omari Salisbury reported earlier today that Seattle Department of Transportation workers were stacking cement barricades in front of the West Precinct, which is kitty-corner to the federal courthouse downtown.
At a press conference earlier today, Governor Inslee said no security forces had been deployed to the Seattle region. "Homeland Security told my staff that this morning" and confirmed the same thing later in the afternoon, Inslee said. He added that Durkan told him Wolf "assured" her there wouldn't be any forces sent to Seattle.
Both Durkan and Inslee have cautioned against the federal government sending agents to crack down on protesters.
However, on Monday afternoon Seattle Police Officers Guild president Mike Solan appeared on right-wing radio and repeatedly suggested it "might" be time for the federal government to send secret police to Seattle, citing the "success" in Portland, Oregon.
*The source responded to a request for clarification Friday morning to say that they saw two planes and "an equal number of men" emerge from both.