Gov. Kate Brown Invokes Emergency Powers to Confront Planned Saturday Right-Wing Rally

The Oregon State Police and Multnomah County Sheriff's Office, rather than Portland police, will lead crowd control efforts as the right and the left face off in North Portland.

Protesters fight in Portland, Aug. 17, 2019. (Wesley Lapointe)

Gov. Kate Brown announced Friday she's drawing on emergency authority to direct a coordinated response to tomorrow's planned rally by right-wing groups at Delta Park in North Portland.

That event is likely to draw a strong counterprotest from the left—and conflict between the two groups could get violent.

"We are aware that white supremacist groups from out of town, including the Proud Boys, are planning a rally," Brown said. "They are expecting a significant crowd—some people will be armed, with others ready to harass or intimidate Oregonians. Many are from out of state."

Brown said that the event requires an extraordinary response.

And the plan she described today marks an abrupt reversal from earlier this week, when the Oregon State Police and the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office said they would not participate in crowd control work at the rally because of a disagreement with Mayor Ted Wheeler's recent ban on police use of CS gas.

Related: Oregon State Police and Multnomah County Sheriff Won't Help Portland Police With Crowd Control at Saturday's Proud Boy Rally

"I have spoken with Mayor Wheeler, Commissioner Hardesty, Multnomah County Chair Kafoury, Sheriff Reese and Speaker Kotek," Brown said. "Out of this conversation came the agreement that we must have a coordinated effort across state and local law enforcement officials to keep everyone safe this weekend.

"To do that, I am exercising my authority to put the superintendent of State Police and the Multnomah County sheriff in charge of public safety in Portland
this weekend. The mayor has agreed to and supports this plan."

That's a different scenario from Aug. 22, when the Proud Boys, Patriot Prayer and their supporters rallied downtown, leading to violent clashes with left-wing opponents. In that instance, a skeleton crew of Portland Police Bureau officers mostly watched the violence, including one right-winger, later identified as Alan Swinney, brandishing a gun.

Related: Right-Wingers and Anti-Fascists Brawl Downtown as Police Stand By.

The PPB's passive response resulted in widespread criticism and may explain why Brown is taking a firmer approach to tomorrow's event.

"This is our entire community coming together to protect our community," Brown said. "We want the highest level of coordination and the strongest leadership possible."

This weekend's event comes after several nights of unrest all across the nation after a Kentucky grand jury charged only one of three officers involved in the March 13 fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor.

"America needs to hear this: Breonna Taylor deserves justice," Brown declared. "And this week's grand jury decision was not justice."

Law enforcement leaders at today's press conference declined to give specifics of how they plan to protect protesters, bystanders and the community this weekend, beyond the promise of a massive influx of state troopers. Oregon State Police Superintendent Travis Hampton says police are allowed to and will if necessary use CS gas to disperse crowds—a departure from the new Portland policy.

Hampton spoke directly to those planning to come to Portland in his remarks.

"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," Hampton said. "We will do our very best to interdict that criminal behavior."

Hampton did not offer specifics on the numbers of officers expected to be on the streets of Portland this weekend, but he did promise an unusually large presence.

"You don't often see this many state troopers in North Portland," he noted.

Brown, a lawyer, acknowledged that everybody, including the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer, can say what they want. But she drew a line that hasn't always been observed in clashes between the left and right that have regularly occurred since President Donald Trump's election in 2016.

"In America, we have the right to peacefully assemble, and everyone in Oregon has a right to express themselves freely—even those who the vast majority of Oregonians would deeply disagree with. However, the First Amendment does not give anyone license to hurt or kill someone because of opposing political views."

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