PPB: Short-staffed but ready for protesters

Multnomah County

Right-wing groups arriving in Portland for downtown Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — On the eve of planned demonstrations that are bringing a number of right-wing groups to the city Portland police shed more light on how they’re preparing to respond.

The bureau remains short-staffed, said PPB Lt. Tina Jones in a press conference Friday morning. But they have law enforcement partners from around the state — including from the state and federal levels — ready to assist with crowd control and whatever other calls pop up.

“The assessment of these events determined it was beyond the resources PPB had available,” Jones said at a Friday press conference.

Preparation for this protest — expected to bring the Proud Boys, Three Percenters, Patriot Prayer and antifa all together — has been going on for weeks.

Hate group watchdogs say the Daily Stormers, a neo-Nazi group are also expected, the Associated Press reports.

One right-wing group, though, will not attend. Oath Keepers’ leader Stewart Rhodes announced Thursday they will not attend the rally because the organizers — Joe Biggs and the Proud Boys — haven’t done enough to “exclude known or suspected white nationalists from attending.”

Steven Howard, a Vancouver resident who was the Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi, told KOIN 6 News he will attend the protest on Saturday.

Jones said PPB is confident in how they will respond.

The protest may begin “as early as 9:30 a.m.” Jones said, adding no group has applied for any permit so far.

There will also be ‘liaison officers’ wearing clearly marked uniforms who will work with members of the various groups. Despite this, police know there will be plenty of feedback.

PPB Sgt. Chris Burley displays the PPB Liaison Officer uniforms, August 16, 2019 (PPB)

“Our interactions are necessary to increase public safety and should not be construed as biased, preference, or endorsement of any particular point of view or side,” she said. “Law enforcement’s role is to protect and serve the public and this is done neutrally and in accordance with the Constitution, federal, state, and local laws.”

“We receive criticism no matter what. I think I already highlighted that,” Jones said. “It’s either too much, not enough, ‘you arrested this group, not this group’ and it seems as if people are keeping score. And that’s not what its about. On the law enforcement side, 100% it’s about safety.”

“We know in this political environment, we will be criticized for what we do and what happens no matter the outcome. That criticism is not our primary concern or focus.”

Protesters are asked to stay on the sidewalks while walking through downtown. If this order is disobeyed, citations will be given and arrests will be made.

Because crowd management events are unpredictable, PPB will have special crowd management teams deployed and several partners ready to go in the case of any “catastrophic” event.

The National Guard has not been called up, Jones said, but declined to say how many officers will be out on the streets.

Beginning at 4 a.m. Saturday, the Hawthorne Bridge will be closed along with SW 2nd between Main and Madison.

The number 1 goal, Jones said, is the safety of all involved in these protests — that includes participants, the public, and officers.

Watch: PPB Lt. Tina Jones provides protest plans, August 16, 2019

The rally against anti-fascists being advertised for Aug. 17 is expected to draw far-right groups such as the Proud Boys, Oathkeepers and Three Percenters to Portland. Rose City Antifa has issued a statement asking counter-protesters to defend Portland from a “far-right attack.”

Saturday will likely draw the same groups of protesters seen before in the city, only in greater numbers.

Past rallies have escalated into violent confrontations between right-wing groups and the anti-fascists who oppose them.

Portland police say they’ve been in contact with organizers on both sides in an effort “to achieve the goal of a safe event.”

Some events scheduled to take place Saturday in downtown Portland have been canceled, postponed or moved.

A map of the area Portland police believe will be impacted by Saturday’s demonstrations, Aug. 15, 2019. (KOIN)

‘Won’t tolerate violence’

The PPB and Mayor Wheeler have both been criticized for their lack of enforcement at previous protests involving the same groups set to gather downtown on Saturday.

Jones said Chief Outlaw canceled anyone’s day off and they’ve requested help from other partner agencies for the day.

“We are not tolerating any sort of criminal violence,” Jones told KOIN 6 News earlier in the week.

She admitted “this is going to be kind of gameday fluidity” when the protest begins. But she promised, “You can anticipate a very large law enforcement presence, a visible presence in the area to keep this event safe.”

And Jones re-iterated the police will support everyone’s 1st Amendment right to free speech and assembly.

“But we will not tolerate criminal acts of violence,” she said, “and we will be prepared to take action if that’s what they intend to do that day.”

PPB will be sending out updates via Twitter throughout the day.

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