Police discuss Saturday protest strategy
Portland police officers discussed their strategy on the eve of demonstrations planned to take place Saturday in downtown Portland.
Multnomah County also announced it is closing the Hawthorne Bridge to all traffic during the planned protests.
The Portland Police Bureau held a press conference late Friday morning at the Justice Center on Southwest 2nd Avenue. They are expected to take a different approach this weekend compared to their handling of past demonstrations.
Mayor Ted Wheeler has said "things will be different" when protesters take to the streets on Saturday.
The PPB said the number one goal is the safety of all involved in these protests — that includes participants, the public, and officers.
Police said these protests may start as early as 9:30 a.m.
Because crowd management events are unpredictable, the PPB will have special crowd management teams deployed and several partners ready to go in the case of any "catastrophic" event.
Despite rumors floating around, the National Guard is not one of these partners.
The PPB also wants the public to be aware of new uniforms the officers will be wearing on Saturday.
The rally against anti-fascists being advertised for Aug. 17 is expected to draw far-right groups such as the Proud Boys, Oathkeepers and Three Percenters to Portland. Rose City Antifa has issued a statement asking counter-protesters to defend Portland from a "far-right attack."
Saturday will likely draw the same groups of protesters seen before in the city, only in greater numbers.
Past rallies have escalated into violent confrontations between right-wing groups and the anti-fascists who oppose them.
Protestors are asked to stay on the sidewalks while walking through downtown. If this order is disobeyed, citations will be given and arrests will be made.
The police are aware that no matter what the outcome of these protests is, they will be criticized. They said this criticism is not their priority.
"Our interactions are necessary to increase public safety and should not be construed as biased, preference, or endorsement of any particular point of view or side," said PPB Lt. Tina Jones. "Law enforcement's role is to protect and serve the public and this is done neutrally and in accordance with the Constitution, federal, state, and local laws."
Portland police say they've been in contact with organizers on both sides in an effort "to achieve the goal of a safe event."
Some events scheduled to take place Saturday in downtown Portland have been canceled, postponed or moved.
The PPB and Mayor Wheeler have both been criticized for their lack of enforcement at previous protests involving the same groups set to gather downtown on Saturday.
Jones said Chief Outlaw canceled anyone's day off and they've requested help from other partner agencies for the day.
"We are not tolerating any sort of criminal violence," Jones told KOIN 6 News.
However, they are still facing a critical staffing shortage on Saturday that impacts their ability to answer 911 calls at the same time as managing this large event. Their various partners have stepped up to assist.
She admitted "this is going to be kind of gameday fluidity" when the protest begins. But she promised, "You can anticipate a very large law enforcement presence, a visible presence in the area to keep this event safe."
And Jones reiterated the police will support everyone's 1st Amendment right to free speech and assembly.
"But we will not tolerate criminal acts of violence," she said, "and we will be prepared to take action if that's what they intend to do that day."
PPB will be sending out updates via Twitter throughout the day.
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