Governor deploys 50 from National Guard, 100 State Police
Gov. Kate Brown has dispatched 50 Oregon National Guard soldiers, plus 100 Oregon State Police troopers, to assist Portland police in the aftermath of public protests of George Floyd's death.
But Brown rebuffed requests by Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and U.S. Attorney Billy Williams for a mobilization of the Guard after three nights of street disorders.
Brown said the 50 soldiers will help police in a support function, so that police are on the front lines. They will not bear arms and will not have a public presence.
"Our goal, and the goal of the overwhelming number of protesters, is to reduce violence," Brown said at a news conference Monday afternoon. "You don't reduce violence by putting soldiers on the streets.
"Soldiers on the streets across America is what President Trump wants. He has made that clear this morning (in a conference call) with governors across the United States. Trump wants the governors to deploy the National Guard as a show of force."
While Brown was speaking, Trump called violent protests "acts of domestic terror" and vowed to respond with an "overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled." He said that would include military forces.
Superintendent Travis Hampton said the Oregon State Police has good relations with the Portland Police Bureau and the Oregon National Guard.
"Demonstrations of this size pose great challenges for law enforcement," he said. "But I have no reservations abut putting our personnel under the direction of Chief (Jami) Resch."
Brown said about 100 State Police troopers, of a total of 700 available, would be drawn from elsewhere in Oregon for duty in Portland. She said it stretches the agency thin.
Portland City Commissioner JoAnn Hardesty said that when Brown broached the idea of the limited deployment, her initial reaction was "no, no, no"
But Hardesty said that after she consulted with Chief Resch, who said some city officers had been on duty three straight nights, she changed her mind.
"I think we can all agree that tired police officers do not serve the public interest," she said.
Hardesty said that in a previous role as a community organizer, she would be among those leading the protests. She has been a critic of poor relations between police and the African American community.
Given the disorders of the past three nights, she said, "we have to close this down."
Floyd died as police in Minneapolis were arresting him, one of the officers placing a knee on Floyd's neck.
Sen. Lew Frederick, D-Portland, said the fear that minorities have during police stops is real. As a reporter for Portland television station in the early 1990s, Frederick said he and a photographer faced a gun drawn by a King City police officer. (Today, King City's mayor is black.) As recently as 2015, while Frederick was a state representative, he was stopped by police en route to his home in the Irvington neighborhood, where has has lived since 1977.
Frederick also decried the violence that has occurred after largely peaceful demonstrations to honor Floyd and protest police misconduct.
"But it is not a reason to shut down free expression by the majority of people," he said.
Frederick said he and other members of the People of Color Caucus within the Legislature — seven in the House and two in the Senate — plan legislation to improve police training. A series of bills will follow up on legislation passed in recent years, including a ban on racial profiling and mandatory collection by police agencies of who gets stopped.
"There is not any one fix that makes the justice system fair," Hardesty said.
Brown said she stands with others who have protested the status quo on race relations:
"To everyone who is hurting right now, I want to say I see you. I hear you. I stand with you. And I
add my voice to yours.
"Years and years of failure to reform police practices. Years of failure to hold police officers
accountable. Years of failure to bring real reforms to our criminal justice system, which
incarcerates Black Americans at five times the rate of white Americans.
"I count myself as one of the many white politicians whose good intentions haven't done enough
to tackle the scourge of systemic racism."
NOTE: Adds comment from Gov. Brown about the protests.
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