The governor of the US state of Oregon said Friday she was sending police officers and sheriff deputies to Portland over the weekend to oversee a weekend rally by the Proud Boys, a right-wing group, and counter-protests in the city.
Portland was ravaged by often violent protests for more than three months after police killed George Floyd in the US state of Minneapolis, sparking a nationwide movement against police brutality and racism against blacks.
Demonstrations, which fell into doldrums during the recent Oregon wildfires, resumed this week following a decision by a Kentucky grand jury not to charge any officials with the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor.
Members of the Proud Boys and other right-wing protesters march across Hawthorne Bridge during an “End Domestic Terrorism” rally in Portland, Oregon [File: Noah Berger/AP]Gov. Kate Brown told reporters she was exercising her authority to hold Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese and Oregon State Police Superintendent Travis Hampton responsible for public safety in Portland on Saturday and Sunday.
Brown said Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler supports the plan.
“This is our entire community coming together to protect our community,” Brown said. “We want maximum coordination and the strongest possible leadership.”
Oregon State Police superintendent, Hampton, said the change in command “in no way charges our colleagues at the Portland Police Bureau for the work they did or should have done that weekend.”
“The Portland Police Bureau, their officers, have been through some incredibly mentally and physically stressful situations for over 100 days while doing their best to protect the streets in Portland,” said Hampton.
Supporters of US President Donald Trump gather on the steps of the Oregon State Capitol in Salem, Oregon [File: Carlos Barria/Reuters]State cops, sheriff deputies and local police have worked together in protests in downtown Portland in the past, Hampton said.
Similar competing demonstrations ended in fistfighting and bloodshed, including the fatal 29 August shooting of Aaron “Jay” Danielson, a right wing group supporter who was killed in Portland after a caravan of pro-Trump supporters drove a pickup truck Truck in the city center.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown speaks at a press conference in Portland [File: Gillian Flaccus/AP]The suspect, Antifa supporter Michael Reinoehl, was shot dead by federal officials in a hail of gunfire as they moved to arrest him in neighboring Washington state.
Ahead of the Proud Boys’ scheduled rally on Saturday, Brown said she was “incredibly concerned about the increased risk of violence in Portland this weekend and the safety of all Oregonians.”
“Some people will be armed, and some will be willing to harass or intimidate Oregonians,” Brown said. “The pattern of these particular groups is clear to intimidate, stimulate, and ignite.”
Hampton said officers sent to Portland could use tear gas and less lethal ammunition to disperse the crowd when the protest and counter-protests become violent or when people’s lives are in danger.
Investigators are investigating the scene in Lacey, Washington, where police officers reportedly shot Michael Reinoehl [File: Caitlin Ochs/Reuters]”With the use of any tool or option, we will always be proportional in our response,” said Hampton. “We want to do everything we can to intervene early so that we do not have to increase the levels of violence if it is necessary to keep the peace.”
Portland Mayor Wheeler has banned local police from using tear gas.
The organizers said the Proud Boys rally would support US President Donald Trump and the police, and condemn anti-fascists who accuse the group of “domestic terrorism”.
The city denied permission to protest against organizers, citing an estimated thousands of people amid the coronavirus pandemic. But police said they would not try to stop the Proud Boys from gathering in a park in north Portland.
Anti-fascist counter-demonstrators cross the Burnside Bridge in Portland, Oregon in search of the far right group, the Proud Boys [File: AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus]”If you want to come to Oregon, to Portland, to protest peacefully, to gather together, to voice your outrage, voice your concern, we welcome you for that,” said Hampton.
“If your job and intention is to come to Oregon to commit crimes, provoke and make people feel unsafe in their homes, then we don’t want you to come here.”