Gov. Brown creates unified command to deal with potential unrest in Portland on Saturday
Gov. Kate Brown has created a unified command, led by the Oregon State Police and Multnomah County sheriff, to lead a law enforcement response to potential threats of violence stemming from a Proud Boys gathering in Portland this weekend.
Brown, flanked by the leaders of those agencies, said Friday that they will be in charge of "public safety in Portland this weekend" with the cooperation of Portland Police.
"The First Amendment does not give anyone license to hurt or kill someone because of opposing political views," she said at a virtual briefing. "When free expressions are fueled by hate and coupled with intent to incite violence, I need to do everything I can as governor to ensure the safety of Oregonians."
State Police Superintendent Travis Hampton said that while some tactical details were being worked out and would not be disclosed, state troopers and sheriff's deputies will flood the roads around Delta and Peninsula parks, which are accessible from Interstate 5. Proud Boys, a group affiliated with the right, was denied a city permit for a gathering in Delta Park.
"If your intent is to come to Oregon to commit crimes, to provoke, to make people feel unsafe in their homes, we do not want you to come here," he said. "If your intent is to bring incendiary devices, narcotics and firearms unlawfully, we will do our best to take these off the streets. If that is your intent, please don't come."
Sheriff Mike Reese said another goal was to keep opposing groups separate. Anti-Proud Boys advocates plan their own activities elsewhere.
"We hope we don't have to engage law enforcement efforts and custody arrests or use of force," he said. "We would love to have this to be a beautiful rainy/sunny day — whatever Oregon delivers for us tomorrow — where we are just police officers."
Brown said she invoked her executive authority to create a unified command after she spoke with other officials: Mayor Ted Wheeler, City Commissioner JoAnn Hardesty, Multnomah County Board Chair Deborah Kafoury, and Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, whose district covers North Portland.
"Let me be clear: We will not tolerate any kind of violence this weekend," Brown said. "Left, right or center, violence is never a path toward meaningful change.
"Individuals who commit violent acts will be charged and prosecuted."
Mid-afternoon on Friday, Wheeler released a statement condemning the Proud Boys rally, co-signed by 14 elected officials from the city, state and federal level.
Hampton said, "We will not remove CS gas as a possibility from these events," although Wheeler has barred Portland police from using it. Reese said, however, that its use is "a last resort" if lives are endangered, as well as other tactics for crowd control.
The unified command supersedes the city for 48 hours Saturday and Sunday.
Hampton said that earlier this year, he placed 100 troopers under Portland police command, and some troopers provided security for the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse in downtown Portland in place of federal law enforcement.
Brown said she sympathized with those angry about a grand jury decision earlier this week in Louisville, Ky., to charge only one former police officer with "wanton endangerment," but not two other officers who fired the shots that killed Breonna Taylor while she was in her own apartment in a raid gone bad.
"Breonna Taylor deserves justice," she said. "This week's grand jury decision was not justice."
Portland has experienced more than 100 nights of protests after the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, the Taylor killing six months ago, and others across the nation.
The Oregon Legislature has passed bills in two special sessions to change police practices, and a special committee continues work on legislation for the 2021 session. Brown has created the Racial Justice Council, and a task force to take a closer look at police standards and training.
"These steps are just a start," Brown said. "There is still much more work to do to create an Oregon that works for all of us. Let's continue that work together."
NOTE: Adds remarks by Multnomah County sheriff; adds Gov. Brown's comments on Breonna Taylor grand jury decision in Louisville, Ky.
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