Gov. Brown urges Portland police to de-escalate confrontations with violent protesters
Saying that she is "disturbed" by escalating confrontations between Portland police and a small group of violent protesters, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Friday urged city leaders to do more to de-escalate the growing tensions between the two groups.
Brown also said she has asked the Oregon State Police — which sometimes works with Portland police during protests — to reevaluate the criteria it uses when responded to Portland's requests for assistance.
"We can do better, we must do better, to heal the divisions in our community. We have a duty to keep the peace, not escalate confrontation," Brown said in Friday statement.
The confrontations are following a pattern of large, peaceful, anti-racism protests during the day and violent late night clashes at night, usually at the downtown Justice Center, but also at North Precinct and the Portland Police Association headquarters in North Portland. Most recently, protesters set off commercial-grade fireworks and started a fire at the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse next to the Justice Center early Friday.
Both sides routinely blame the other for starting the violence, with the police documenting examples of projectiles being hurled at them and protesters saying they were behaving peacefully before the police attacked them for no reason.
Brown previously had turned down requests from Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy Williams to activate the National Guard to protect public buildings in Portland. She has not always approved Wheeler's requests for OSP support, either.
"The Portland Police Bureau regularly requests assistance from the Oregon State Police to provide law enforcement officer support. For the most part in recent weeks, OSP has declined those requests," Brown's Deputy Communications Director Charles Boyle said Friday.
According to Boyle, state police were assisting on June 30 when protesters outside the police union headquarters were dispersed with munitions and CS gas, however.
Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek has criticized the police reaction, which took place in her district, while PPA President Daryl Turner has called it justified to protect lives and property.
Here is Brown's complete statement:
"Large-scale, peaceful protests across Oregon have brought attention to the need for police reform. These actions have been an inspiration.
"Separately, a small group of individuals in Portland have repeatedly taken to the streets with the intent to destroy property. This group has repeatedly lit fires, thrown rocks, bottles, fireworks, and other objects, and have put the safety of others at risk.
"I am disturbed by what appears to be a pattern of escalation between the Portland Police Bureau and this group of protestors, and by the Police Bureau's use of crowd control munitions. Use of force, regardless of its legal justification, will do nothing to solve the underlying concerns of racial justice and police accountability raised by the protests. I strongly urge the City of Portland to be proactive in using strategies focused on de-escalation and dialogue in order to prevent and avoid this senseless cycle of violence.
"I have instructed OSP Superintendent Hampton to reevaluate the criteria OSP uses when responding to requests for support from Portland Police Bureau, including whether life safety is at risk and if support from other surrounding jurisdictions is available.
"Superintendent Hampton and I are committed to ensuring that OSP upholds and reflects those values."
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