PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As the inauguration of Joe Biden approaches and with the insurrection at the US Capitol still fresh in everyone’s mind, the FBI’s Portland field office is running a command post to gather intelligence and coordinate with area law enforcement partners to deal with potential threats.
The FBI is working closely with the Oregon State Police, the Portland Police Bureau and the Salem Police Department, plus other agencies throughout the state.
The FBI’s Portland Field Office said they are “preparing for any potential violent activity related to the recent unrest in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere.”
The FBI is “maintaining a heightened posture to monitor for any emerging threats to our region,” said Special Agent in Charge Renn Cannon. “We also have special agents, bomb technicians, the FBI Evidence Response Team, tactical teams, intelligence teams, and others to support investigations and counter any potential threat of violence to the state capitol, federal buildings, and our shared community.”
The FBI statement comes a day after Governor Brown said she activated the Oregon National Guard ahead of possible civil unrest.
Armed right-wing protesters breached the Oregon State Capitol while lawmakers were attending a special legislative session on Dec. 21. State Rep. Mike Nearman is accused of opening a door to let demonstrators inside. Officers quickly responded to the open doors and tried for several minutes to push the protesters out.
Eventually, police were pepper-sprayed and retreated into the building, and protesters flooded into the building through the doors Nearman had allegedly opened.
Four protesters were arrested that day.
Oregon lawmakers decided to delay next week’s start of the official legislative session to ensure no one is inside the Capitol building out of an abundance of caution.
“I’ve never been around the state police when they’ve been the way they are now, they are very much in a bunker mentality, we will prepare for all eventualities. It’s gotten very serious,” said Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney.
PPB aware of ‘heightened concern’
Authorities in Portland are also preparing for what the next week may bring. Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell released a statement Thursday acknowledging a “heightened concern” as the inauguration approaches. But he said there are “no known specific threats” at this time.
“This community is tired of the wanton destruction of public and private property and the violence and intimidation we’ve seen acted out in the name of protest or hate. This is criminal behavior and we are committed to holding those who perpetrate these acts accountable.”
He said PPB has been planning for Inauguration Day with both local and federal partners “to ensure coordinated efforts to maintain peace.”
Lovell pledged to deal arrest those “committing criminal acts of intimidation, property destruction and violence.”
“At this time, there are no known specific threats to Portland and we will continue to monitor the situation and adapt to prioritize public safety. Portland Police officers remain vigilant for criminal gatherings and will respond with available resources to restore order if they occur.”
Lovell also noted Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day and hopes people will make “the coming days ones of peace.”
‘We have to take groups at their word, right?’
Since June 2020, there have been about 100 different events and protests on Capitol grounds, said Salem Police Chief Trevor Womack.
“The frequency, the intensity of the protests we’ve seen since June are relatively new for our city and so our approach to these protests has continued to evolve,” Womack said.
After watching the violence at the US Capitol, Chief Womack said they will take any threats in the coming days very seriously.
“Looking back at the last couple protests, especially what happened in Washington DC, I think we have to take groups at their word, right? We can’t ignore that, so what’s being threatened or said, we have to view that as potentially legitimate.”
Salem City Councilor Trevor Phillips said there’s been a growing sense in the past year that “something bad could happen. And it’s a credit to the department that there has been no loss of life in the city. And I don’t feel like, after last week, that feels like a guarantee.”
Womack said Salem PD is in constant communication with OSP and will closely coordinate with them.
“I spoke with the superintendent with OSP this morning,” he said. “We’re in close coordination. We are assessing all the intelligence we have as it comes in and preparing appropriately.”
The FBI is hoping to gather tips. Call 503.224.4181 or go to tips.fbi.gov to submit information regarding any potential violence at any upcoming protest or event. You can also call 1.800.CALL.FBI. If you know of an immediate emergency, call 911.