‘Breaks my heart’: Oregon Capitol transformed into ‘fortress’

Protests

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The lower-level windows at the Oregon State Capitol are covered with plywood. State and local enforcement officials are tightening security and Oregon is keeping a firm grip on its National Guard troops.

All of this ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration which will take place in just five days.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown said the state sent 30 National Guard troops to Washington, D.C. but has turned down the federal government’s request for additional troops.

“They requested an additional number of troops. I don’t have the numbers, roughly over 100, but honestly, I didn’t feel like we could safely make that commitment,” Brown said on Friday.

Protesters disrupted a special session of the Oregon Legislature on Dec. 21, breaking a glass door on the side of the State Capitol and grappling with state troopers before forcing their way inside the building. Four people were arrested during what authorities deemed an unlawful assembly.

“What happened on Dec. 21 was both outrageous and absolutely appalling,” said Brown.

The governor said Oregon State Police is currently working to ensure it has enough resources to protect the State Capitol. She said she’s “confident they can keep the Capitol safe.”

Many precautions are being put in place ahead of civil unrest expected to flare in the coming days. The Oregon State Capitol’s windows were boarded up and cement blocks were placed outside. Sen. Peter Courtney likened the building to a “fortress.”

“Never thought I’d see that, it breaks my heart,” he told KOIN 6 News.

House Speaker Tina Kotek said the Capitol will be closed on Tuesday and Wednesday and all committee meetings will be postponed so that no staff members will need to be physically present in the building on those days.

“We are very much focused on next week, making sure the Capitol grounds, the Capitol facilities, are safe,” Kotek said. “There have been threat assessments; recommendations from the state police.”

Whatever the coming days may bring, officials are prioritizing safety while also looking ahead to the future.

“We take it one day at a time, we are very focused on the intensified activity against our democratic institutions connected with the inauguration next week — so that is our first priority,” said Kotek. “We will have to look at ongoing increase protocols for the Capitol and figuring out that balance between the ability to protest peacefully around the Capitol grounds and our ability to keep the people who work in the building safe.”

In Portland, U.S. Attorney Billy Williams released a statement advising anyone considering violence to rethink their plans.

“Like most Americans, I watched in disgust and anger as radical insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol in a shocking display of political violence,” Williams wrote. “There is no question these violent acts were domestic terrorism aimed at disrupting Congress’ Constitutional duty to certify the electoral victory of President-elect Joe Biden. The Justice Department and U.S. Attorney’s Offices throughout the country are working tirelessly to investigate and prosecute all forms of domestic terrorism including this attack on our government, and those responsible will be brought to justice.

“As we approach next week’s inauguration, the threat of similar political violence around the country and here in Oregon remains. Our office is working closely with the FBI, Federal Protective Service, Oregon State Police, Portland Police Bureau, and other local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to identify, investigate, and disrupt anyone intent on engaging in violence here in Oregon.

“We need the public’s help to keep our communities safe and protect all Oregonians’ First Amendment rights. We urge you to submit any information you have about real or potential threats of violence at any upcoming demonstrations or events throughout the state. Tips can be submitted directly to the FBI by calling (503) 224-4181 or by visiting tips.fbi.gov.”

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