PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Less than 24 hours before an Election Day already entrenched in tension, Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced the Oregon National Guard may be called in to quell potential unrest.
During a press conference on Monday morning, Governor Brown said she has issued an executive order to place the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office and the Oregon State Police in joint command of public safety in Portland for election-related protests. She also said she has given the order to call in the National Guard if need be.
“Every Oregonian has the right to express themselves and to peacefully assembly. However, I want to be very, very clear that voter intimidation and political violence will not be tolerated — not from the left, not from the right and not from the center. Not this week, not any week in Oregon,” Brown said. “I have placed [Oregon State Police] Superintendent Terri Davie and Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese in charge of public safety in Portland. I have also directed General [Michael] Stencel to call on our National Guard should their services be necessary,” Brown announced.
Davie said the enforcement time period will last about 48 hours, beginning at 5 p.m. on Monday evening. It was also announced that officers and deputies will be allowed to use tear gas as a crowd control munition at the direction of OSP or MCSO.
“We appreciate the governor’s use of her executive authority to create a unified command. It allows all of the law enforcement agencies in Multnomah County to work collaboratively and in alignment and certainty certainty in what we’re going to do and to give us the resources necessary to keep the peace in our community,” Sheriff Reese said. “We want to use no force at all in this election process. Our overarching goal is to keep the peace, to have a visible presence so people can vote peacefully and engage in our democratic processes and for us to support that.”
Brown continued to explain state, local and community partners have been working on measures for this particular situation for a number of weeks and there will be the highest level of coordination and adequate resources in place.
“If you take one thing from this press conference, let it be this: violence is never the answer,” Brown continued. “We stand here today urging all Oregonians to commit to non-violent expression. We can all do our parts this week by staying calm, cool and collected.”
When asked what would need to happen in order to call in the National Guard, Superintendent Davie replied.
“It’s still in the planning process,” Superintendent Davie explained. She said while they cannot be sure what will actually transpire ahead of time, the National Guard will be deployed wherever required.
“We will assess at that time where [the soldiers are] most needed — it’s a variety of things they could be utilized for.” She said the number of soldiers will also be dependent on what the situation calls for.
Following the press conference’s conclusion, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler released a statement in response to the governor’s emergency declaration.
“Given the heightened concerns about potential violence, particularly from white supremacist organizations and the divisive rhetoric from Washington, D.C., the need for coordination and partnership takes on statewide significance. Oregon is likely to be a flashpoint,” Wheeler said. “I appreciate that Governor Brown is using her executive authority to bring more resources to Portland. Our partnership prevented violence in the past and I hope it will do so again.
“We should all be prepared for delayed results from the election. And I urge everyone to focus on staying safe during this most important election.”
Demonstrations have been ongoing for months in the Portland Metro area — and with Election Day nearly here, Portland police have already started pooling all available officers.
“We at the Portland Police Bureau have canceled days off so we have additional staffing on hand,” said Police Chief Chuck Lovell.
The PPB will work together with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office and the Oregon State Police in order to quell whatever unrest comes as a result of the elections.
Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt said his office will continue to focus on those who commit assault or cause property damage.
“My office’s guidelines are still in place and we’ve been handling everything, focusing on cases of property damage and violence, and prioritizing those cases,” said Schmidt.
The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office is taking a very specific role in preventing problems at ballot drop-off locations. Increased patrols will be in place so deputies can respond quickly to any calls.
“If they have any reports of intimidation, interference, or threats towards voters, to call that in. If you fear imminent violence, call 9-1-1. If it’s not an emergency and you have a question, reach out to the elections office,” said Reese.
The sheriff also asks voters to document anything that doesn’t seem right.
Authorities want to prevent what happened in November 2016 when Donald Trump won the election. Dozens of Portland businesses were vandalized, rioters used rocks and baseball bats, fires were set and more than 100 people were arrested during several nights of violence.
“In 2016 I think we were reacting to it a lot over those first few days and we want to have plans in place already in order to have adequate resources to deal with anything that comes up,” Davis said.