Portland Parks denies Proud Boys permit over COVID concerns

Civic Affairs

Proud Boys said they expected 10,000 at Delta Park

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) –– Citing crowd estimates that run counter to COVID-19 guidelines, the Portland Parks and Recreation Bureau denied a permit to the Proud Boys for a rally in North Portland on Saturday.

The far-right group estimated they could have as many as 10,000 people at Delta Park. Initially, they planned to hold a rally at Terry Schrunk Plaza in downtown Portland but decided to move it when they said they expected a much larger crowd at noon on Saturday.

Hundreds of people,including members of the Proud Boys, gathered in Oregon City for a pro-Trump caravan and rally to Salem, September 7, 2020 (KOIN)

“The described event is not compliant with Oregon Health Authority guidelines about the number of people allowed in gatherings and cannot be conducted in a manner consistent with physical distancing guidance from public health officials,” information from Commissioner Amanda Fritz’s blog said. “We must all do our part to fight the spread of COVID-19 in our community and keep ourselves and each other safe. Events like this are not welcome and not allowed.”

The Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) Caucus issued a statement Wednesday calling for calm and urging counter-demonstrators to stay away from any rallies held by Proud Boys or other far-right groups.

The leaders of this hateful demonstration have clearly stated their intention is to damage our community and intimidate our fellow community members. These hate groups are not welcome here. We must show them that the violence and hate they wish to bring to our streets is unacceptable. 

We are calling on Oregonians who share our goal of ending police brutality and racial injustice to avoid the main demonstration. As we have seen time and again, the hate groups that have organized these rallies are often heavily armed and intend to commit acts of violence. They also use these rallies to drain our resources and gather material to recruit others. Let’s not empower them with our presence. 

We can continue to peacefully and lawfully speak out against white supremacy, police violence and systematic racism, without giving these hate groups an opportunity to cause turmoil. We stand in opposition to violence of any kind during demonstrations. While we cannot control the actions of others, we can control what we choose to do ourselves. 

The Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer are here to bring violence and spread hate. But we know their agenda and our community will not stand for violence or hate. We will not be intimidated or silenced, but we also will not allow these individuals to sow the chaos and destruction they so desperately seek.

BIPOC Caucus

State Senator Lew Frederick told KOIN 6 News he’s concerned about potential violence this weekend.

“These folks are coming in primarily to set up a confrontation––primarily to poke people in the eye and to try to set up some kind of violent confrontation,” Frederick said.

Frederick, who represents people in North and Northeast Portland, is also a member of the BIPOC Caucus. He wants those who don’t hold the same opinions as groups like the Proud Boys to avoid confrontation with them.

“We are simply saying , don’t buy into their  plan and also don’t buy into the idea that it would be fun to have a melee, that it would be somehow to have a testosterone break and be able to fight people,” Frederick said. “That’s not what we are about––we are talking about making sure we have safety in our community, especially when it comes to dealing with the police.”

Frederick went on to say that anyone who does decide to clash with right-wing protesters “are not doing it on our behalf… they are actually falling into the whole trap, as well as perhaps being intentionally set up to fall into the trap.”

Elaborating on the “trap” theory, Frederick said he’s seen “provocateurs” during the protests in Portland whom he recognizes as Proud Boys members. He said he’s seen these people do things such as “starting a fire and walking away from it as if they aren’t the ones who are going to be held responsible for it.”

He urges those who support groups working toward racial justice and ending police violence to not engage with people he fears will come into Portland for the sole purpose of inciting violence.

“This is not a game, these things are real and important to us in terms of Black lives in the country and we need to do something about that, but what you are doing does not support it and anybody who’s trying to attack them is also not supporting it. It’s falling into their trap. Don’t fall into their trap. We say, we understand you want to counterprotest, don’t make it a confrontational counter-protest,” said Frederick. “Because that’s what these folks want; they want a confrontational thing, and there are people that say, well, that’s the only way to handle things. Well, it’s not, it’s a way that falls into a clear political trap and if you want to do that then recognize that that’s what you are doing.”

“This is not a game, these things are real and important to us in terms of Black lives in the country…”

Oregon sen. Lew Frederick

The BIPOC Causus has been organizing marches since 1980, according to Frederick. He said the group is now focused on holding police accountable for their actions.

“We are going to continue that effort,” he said. “But this idea of these folks coming to town, they are only coming to town because it’s a political situation. They hope to be on the news nationally or internationally they hope that they will then be able to justify the absolute nonsense of the president and the way he’s handled things. They hope they can get that justification and don’t give it to them, don’t let them manipulate anybody.”

On Tuesday, Portland police said they were preparing for potential protests organized by left- and right-wing groups in the city this weekend.

Beyond the Proud Boys at Delta Park, PPB said another group has planned an event 3 miles away at Peninsula Park starting at the same time.

In a statement, Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell said his department was working with the mayor’s office and other local and regional partners, including TriMet, ahead of Saturday’s events. He also stressed to protesters that authorities are developing a plan “to do everything possible to keep everyone safe.”

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler shared the following statement with KOIN 6 News:

On September 26, far right and white nationalist groups, including the Proud Boys, will be coming to our city. They have announced plans to bring their caravan to Delta Park, the location of the historic Vanport City that once was home to many of our region’s Black residents and the site of a devastating flood in 1948. Choosing Delta Park for this event is not a coincidence, it’s an insult.

While espousing patriotism and a commitment to peaceful protest, some in these groups and many who associate with them embody and empower racism, intolerance and hate. Those are not Portland values, and they are not welcome. Hate has no home in Portland. Violence has no home in Portland. Anyone intending to intimidate, create fear, commit violence, or spread hate is not welcome here.

We are a city of action. Portland has a proud tradition of protest. Progressive Portlanders are eager to go beyond hoping for change to make change. Local leaders embrace and support this value, and we are collectively responsible for ensuring the right to assemble and the right to free speech are protected.

We will always support the ability to gather, share ideas and protest — peacefully. But we have no tolerance for intimidation, racism, hate or violence. We are working with a wide variety of partners from around the region and the state to keep our community safe this weekend.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler

Oregon State Police and the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office said they cannot help Portland police with crowd control this weekend, blaming Mayor Wheeler’s recent ban on the use of tear gas. However, both law enforcement agencies have offered other forms of help including patrols and a mobile booking team.

Oregon State Police shared the following email sent from OSP Superintendent Travis Hampton to PPB Deputy Chief Chris Davis:

As you know, OSP’s resources are extremely taxed as we manage community needs throughout Oregon- in response to the devastating wildfires. OSP and National Guard personnel are in high demand in rural Oregon, as we manage road closures and patrol for criminal activity in evacuated locations. This is on top of our normal call load and policing duties.

Even with these demands, OSP recognizes the mutual aid need for the City of Portland and our long standing colleagues at the Portland Police Bureau. OSP is willing to make a resource investment, although we have some serious reservations on your request relating to crowd control.

I understand PPB is unable to use CS gas in performance of their duties and OSP will not operate under these circumstances. I recognize this is not a decision made by PPB, but you are duty bound to meet these expectations, including your incident commanders that may exercise control of my personnel. You ask for OSP crowd control units to police an element that is well known to have violent interactions- including the carrying, display and use of firearms. As you know, CS gas mitigates the need for officers to utilize deadly physical force in these circumstances, particularly in large open spaces like the planned event location at Delta Park. By removing this tool from officers, this forces us (you) to insert physical bodies in between potentially violent and hostile crowds- increasing the risk of serious physical injury or death of officers and community members. This also significantly increases the need for additional law enforcement personnel. The conflict is highly predictable.

Additionally, due to circumstances beyond the control of PPB, your officers assigned to crowd control duties are unable to utilize the OSP body worn cameras the Governor had previously offered. Independent of the obvious value of evidence preservation and the prosecution aid, these cameras supply an element of officer accountability. OSP is receiving broad discovery requests for hundreds of body camera footage hours, to support PPB arrests- if our cameras may have happened to capture evidence of the conduct. This is extremely resource intensive for OSP, having to review continuous body camera footage from over 100 troopers that span many months of mutual aid.

For the above reasons, OSP is reluctant to offer troopers to support PPB’s crowd control elements. If the decision amend the CS gas prohibition is revisited, we are willing to discuss resource allocation. OSP has used CS gas judiciously, although it is a tool we must have available for community safety, officer safety and best policing practices.

OSP will offer uniform patrol coverage to aid PPB in the event. OSP troopers specialize in criminal apprehension through patrol efforts, so this is a natural function for us to assume- in recognition of your request. These patrols, a number to be determined, would aid PPB is interdicting the criminal element before they arrived at the event(s) and maintain a mobile response for anticipated flash points. We will also make available, if you request, specialized vehicles and armor to aid in officer rescue and the transport of personnel.

I will be in the command post the day of the event to support the Bureau and OSP operations, and of course welcome the dialogue as you finalize the operational planning. Nothing in this response is a reflection of PPB command staff, whom I have the highest respect and admiration.

OSP Superintendent Travis Hampton

The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office told KOIN 6 News, “Nothing has changed since Sheriff Reese’s email yesterday. We have offered to provide mutual aid by having a Mobile Booking Team assist in processing any arrestees and assisting with patrol duties in East Portland so as to free up additional PPB officers. We are coordinating with our law enforcement partners as we learned more about this weekend’s planned events.”

The following is a copy of the aforementioned email from Tuesday:

Deputy Chief Davis,
I received your request for our Rapid Response Team and Mobile Booking Team for the event
on September 26th. After listening to the briefing yesterday (where the crowd size is estimated
at 1000-3000), it’s clear the event has the potential to turn violent. The two groups organizing
for September 26th have a history of violent interactions, and the shooting death at a protest in
Portland heightens all of our concerns. I’m also aware of the recent use of three Molotov
cocktails thrown at police officers a few weeks ago. This was a dangerous escalation by
agitators in the crowd and put everyone’s safety at risk. Additionally, the number of firearms
taken from arrestees or visibly present at demonstrations has created an added element of risk
to managing the protests.
After careful consideration of the potential life safety concerns at the event planned for
September 26th, we are concerned that the prohibition on the use of CS gas leaves PPB with no
sound tactical options to quickly disperse a large crowd engaged in dangerous acts of
violence. If officers have to use high levels of physical force to protect the safety of the
participants, it may lead to substantial injuries and may not be effective in achieving the desired
outcome.
MCSO’s desire at all free speech events is to facilitate a peaceful assembly, and to assist in
maintaining the safety of all participants without using any force. If any participants engage in
criminal behavior, our deputies are trained to respond proportionally to stop criminal acts and
restore the safety of the community. Unfortunately, given the directions your team is working
under, our Rapid Response Team is not available. We can provide mutual aid by having a
Mobile Booking Team assist in processing any arrestees and assisting with patrol duties in East
Portland so as to free up additional Portland police officers.

MCSO Sheriff Mike Reese

KOIN 6 News will continue to follow these developments.

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