Mayor Ted Wheeler is vowing a zero-tolerance policy for violence at the protests planned for Sunday evening between far-right protesters and antifascist counter-protesters.
"We will not tolerate acts of violence," Wheeler says in a statement. "We will not tolerate vandalism. We will not tolerate criminal behavior."
The new hard-line approach is a shift away from the Portland Police Bureau's hands-off response to the last two protests organized by the Vancouver-based far-right group Patriot Prayer.
At a so-called "Freedom March" in early August, antifascist protesters in masks clashed with the far-right protesters, resulting in several bloody fist fights that left some people seeking medical treatment. Three individuals were charged with disorderly conduct, but police didn't intervene to stop the fights. Similarly, in June, police allowed small skirmishes between far-right activists and counterprotesters to fizzle out.
The change in approach comes after violent demonstrations in Berkeley, Calif. and Charlottesville, Va.
Portland police spokesman Chris Burley says in another statement on the protests that PPB will organize a "significant law enforcement presence, due to past threats and acts of violence between these different groups, both locally and nationally."
Police have barred a number of items that can be used as weapons from the public demonstrations on Sunday, including firearms, knives, sticks, bats, poles, rocks, fireworks, and incendiary devices. Police have in the past used seizure of weapons as justification to detain protesters en masse.
PPB will be backed by a swath of law-enforcement agencies: Oregon State Police, the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office, the Federal Protective Service, the United States Attorney's Office, the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office and Portland Fire & Rescue.
Here's Wheeler's full statement on the protests planned for Sunday:
“On Sunday, Portland will find itself – once again – in the middle of national events, as demonstrators and counter-demonstrators converge on our city. This is not the first set of demonstrations in Portland. This will not be the last. But how we conduct ourselves as a community will send a message about our city to the rest of the nation. “Portland rejects racism, bigotry, and xenophobia. We reject white supremacy. Messages of hate are not welcome in Portland. We have seen – far too often – how these words of hate can quickly turn to acts of violence. Portland also rejects violence. “Around the country, we’ve seen demonstrations that have involved arrests and illegal acts. My hope is that we are better than that. We can do it better. We can do it the Portland way. In Portland we celebrate diversity, we stand up for others, we promote unity, and we practice non-violence. “Over recent weeks, my office has worked closely with the Portland Police Bureau, as well as state, local and federal officials, on plans to protect the safety of everyone who chooses to demonstrate on Sunday. Portland Police will focus on ensuring that people’s right for freedom of expression and speech is protected. However, illegal behavior is not acceptable. “We will not tolerate acts of violence. We will not tolerate vandalism. We will not tolerate criminal behavior. I call on everyone who plans on demonstrating here Sunday to do so peacefully, to help ensure that everyone goes home safely.”