What is the role the National Guard plays in Portland?

Multnomah County

50 National Guard members report to OSP

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Despite a night of peaceful protest in Portland spurred by the death of George Floyd, and despite Mayor Ted Wheeler lifting the citywide curfew, no one is expecting the protests and violence are over.

After the main group of peaceful protesters disbanded around midnight, a crowd of about 100 began to throw glass bottles and rocks. A dozen people were arrested by Portland police.

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Wheeler asked Gov. Kate Brown for the National Guard to be deployed only to free up PPB officers protect buildings. Brown sent 50 National Guard members but only in an unarmed support role, not involved in crowd control. She also sent 100 Oregon State Police troopers.

At a morning press conference, PPB Chief Jamie Resch said, “What we could use and did is use a combination of OSP and National Guard to secure buildings only. That’s only what they did. They were not on the front line and not visible for the most part.”

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The mayor reiterated his request for help was never for the National Guard to have direct confrontation with demonstrators. The Guard reports to OSP, and OSP officials told KOIN 6 News they were involved with shuttling vehicles and personnel. (The governor’s full statement is below)

But what if the violence escalates again?

For now, Gov. Brown, Mayor Wheeler and Chief Resch all say they do not intend to call out the National Guard for crowd control. They’re concerned that would only escalate the violence.

In a statement to KOIN 6 News, the governor’s Deputy Communications Director Charles Boyle said:

Over the weekend, the Mayor specifically requested that the Governor mobilize Oregon National Guard members in order to be a visible presence protecting high-profile buildings, including the Justice Center downtown. This request was denied over the weekend and an equal number of additional state police troopers were sent instead. The Mayor and Governor had a difference of opinion about placing soldiers from the Guard at the epicenter of these protests, but they ultimately agreed on the use of state troopers instead.

On Monday, a more limited, supporting role for National Guard members was developed. After further discussion and consultation with community leaders, the Governor agreed to this request, which allowed the use of Guard members in a support role––caring for the injured, processing arrests, and directing traffic, for example. Doing this will free up trained law enforcement officers to more directly work with the public and on crowd control. The Mayor and Governor speak frequently, and when they make critical decisions they don’t shy away from honest and sometimes tough back and forth until they come up with a plan of action. In this case, they ultimately agreed on a plan to ensure the safety of Oregonians making their voices heard on critical social justice issues.

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