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Gov. Kate Brown Agrees to Activate Oregon National Guard for Portland Protests, but Unarmed

Brown also condemned the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in Minneapolis.

Gov. Kate Brown agreed Monday to call out the Oregon National Guard to Portland’s protests of police killings, after Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s public request this morning that she do so. 
In a response to a reporter’s question, Wheeler announced his request at a morning press conference. (He was joined by U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy Williams, the Trump administration’s top law enforcement officer for the state.) Wheeler said the governor had offered assistance from the state police when he made the request three times on Sunday.

Brown qualified her willingness to call out the guard: "I have…decided to call in 50 Oregon National Guard members to provide a support function only."

"They will not be on the front lines making arrests or doing crowd control," Brown said, adding they will not be armed. "You don't defuse violence by putting soldiers on our streets."

The governor said she would also send 100 Oregon State Police troopers "at state expense."

Brown cited a "capacity" issue for state police.

She announced her decision after denouncing the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. “The killing of George Floyd is a stain on this country,” she said. “A single senseless death is one too many.”

She also spoke to her own record, strikingly: "I count myself as one of the many white politicians whose good intentions haven't done enough to tackle the scourge of systemic racism."

Brown spoke at a press conference alongside City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty and state Sen. Lew Frederick, both black leaders from Portland.

"I want to be crystal clear: We are not entering martial law," said Hardesty. "We will not have armed people on every corner."

She said she wanted to remember why people were protesting.

"What brought this to a boiling point is three years of 45 [President Trump] being blatantly racist," she said. "It is our responsibility to make sure everyone in this community is safe."

Hardesty said she initially opposed the idea of deploying the National Guard but learned that some Portland police officers had been on duty for three days straight.

"Having tired police officers on the street doesn't benefit anyone," she said.

Governors in more than 20 states have activated the National Guard.

In a call with governors this morning, President Trump asked the rest to call out their National Guard, calling the protesters “terrorists” and telling governors they’d look like “jerks” if they didn’t seek long jail sentences for protesters, The New York Times reported. “Someone throwing a rock is like shooting a gun,” Trump said, according to the Times. “You have to do retribution.”

Brown mentioned that call in her remarks, saying she had the opposite intent.

"Trump wants governors to deploy the National Guard as a show of force to intimidate the public," she said. "I want to ensure that the public can safely raise their voices in this much needed call for reform."

Portland will be under curfew for the third night in a row, starting at 8 pm.

It's not the first time Wheeler has asked for troops, but Brown previously demurred when right-wing protesters marched on the city last August. Brown alluded to that history today, in a manner that suggested she found his requests wearying.

“This wasn’t the first time the mayor asked to mobilize the National Guard,” she said, “and not the first time I have declined.” 

She also indirectly criticized the mayor's inability to find the law enforcement resources himself.

"In other cities across Oregon, local mayors have had very collaborative relationships and are able to share law enforcement personnel between cities and county," she said. "This used to be the case in Portland, and I encouraged the mayor to rebuild these collaborative law enforcement agreements with neighboring counties and communities."

The mayor's office declined to comment.