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Mayor Ted Wheeler, U.S. Attorney Billy Williams Call on Gov. Kate Brown to Activate Oregon National Guard

“We need leadership,” Williams says after third night of unrest downtown.

This morning, Mayor Ted Wheeler and the top federal law enforcement official in Oregon, U.S. Attorney Billy Williams, both called on Gov. Kate Brown to activate the Oregon National Guard after the third consecutive night of protests downtown.

Both men acknowledged the right of Portlanders to protest and the deep pain that has prompted three nights of protests in Portland, across the country and in some foreign cities.

At a joint press conference this morning, however, Williams also expressed strong feelings about damage early Saturday to the Multnomah County Justice Center, which is both the Portland Police Bureau's headquarters and a jail with 448 beds, and vandalism early this morning to the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse, as well as to numerous private businesses.

"What I saw at the Justice Center and at the Hatfield Courthouse is sickening," Williams said. "This has to stop."

Williams noted that governors in 22 states have called up National Guard troops, and he urged Gov. Brown to do the same.

"I'm asking the governor of Oregon to activate the National Guard," Williams said. "We need leadership. We need action now."

Wheeler said he had spoken to Brown three times on Sunday and asked her for National Guard troops on all three calls. She demurred, he said, choosing to send Oregon State Police troopers instead.

Wheeler and Police Bureau Deputy Chief Chris Davis told reporters their hope was to use National Guard troops to guard key buildings, such as the Justice Center and the Hatfield Courthouse, so the Portland officers currently standing guard at those buildings could be freed up for crowd control duties.

"We are not calling for a widespread deployment," Wheeler said. "We just need more people."

Brown's spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nkenge Harmon Johnson, president and CEO of the Urban League of Portland, says deploying National Guard troops would be a mistake, escalating an already tense situation without providing a solution.

"It will make worse what the U.S. attorney and mayor are trying to cure," Harmon Johnson says. "The curfew was a challenge to people in Portland. You saw how they reacted. Putting the National Guard on the streets just escalates the challenge."