PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell said the bureau is increasing weekend staffing weekend ahead of planned left- and right-wing protests.
“Our plan is to have a visible presence. At the same time it’s going to about what our resources are,” he said Thursday during a press conference about plans for the weekend.
Assistant Chief Chris Davis wouldn’t specify the exact number officers that would be on duty, but said that the bureau canceled regular days off and anticipate having a large staff.
“We’ll do a lot of regulating traffic,” Davis said. “We’re going to try and keep traffic moving.”
Lovell said he hopes the groups won’t clash. He said they are still working on making plans and will continue to do so until Saturday.
“Our goal right now is to keep people apart,” Lovell said. “We can’t be everywhere, we can only do the best we can do with our resources.”
Organizers for one event at Delta Park announced it would start at noon on Saturday, while another group has planned an event three miles away at Peninsula Park starting at the same time, police said. However, 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.
Davis said there was also possibly a third demonstration planned for waterfront park.
“My hope is that they do not try to come together and have altercations or conflict with one another, but at the same time we don’t get to control that, but again that’s our hope,” Lovell said.
PPB is working with TriMet and the Mayor’s office ahead of Saturday’s events.
“Across our region we have witnessed devastation and loss of life from COVID to wildfires to gun violence. It is up to all of us to make sure we do not have an event where further loss of life results,” Lovell said earlier this week. “Lawful engagement in First Amendment rights is acceptable; attendance with the intent to harm or intimidate others is not appropriate or safe for anyone.”
Police are also cautioning drivers about impacted roads on Saturday, including Interstate 5, which is already seeing impacts from the northbound I-5 bridge closure. TriMet may also adjust its service in the event an area becomes blocked or unsafe.
No crowd control help from OSP, MultCo Sheriff’s Office
The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office announced they will not take part in any crowd control for the planned events on Saturday. In a statement, Sheriff Mike Reese said, in part:
“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.”
Reese said the deputies would be available to process any arrestees and would be willing to provide a Mobile Booking Unit.
The Oregon State Police also will not take part in any crowd control on Saturday for the same reasons.
In a tweet Thursday morning, Mayor Ted Wheeler said, “We will always support the ability to gather, share ideas and protest — peacefully. But we have no tolerance for intimidation or violence. We are working with a wide variety of partners from around the region to keep our community safe this weekend.”
‘Reckless public policy’
Shortly after the press conference ended, Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner posted a blistering public letter on the PPA Facebook page where he took Mayor Ted Wheeler’s decision to ban the use of CS (tear) gas during demonstrations.
“Banning CS gas from use in the most limited of circumstances—like when Molotov cocktails are thrown or guns fired by demonstrators—is so mind-numbingly reckless that the Governor’s top cop at State Police and our elected County Sheriff won’t help this weekend,” Turner wrote. “…Reckless public policy has real consequences. You’ve had your chance to lead. You’ve failed to do so. I pray that our City is spared from further violence this weekend.”
Multnomah County Commission: ‘Violence not welcome here’
The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners also released a statement ahead of the weekend, calling on the community to not engage with the violence, hate and division that has been notoriously seen at previous clashes.
“These groups continue to use Portland and Multnomah County as a focal point for their combative and racist organizing. The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners has said this before, and we will say it again: Racism is not welcome here. Hate and division are not welcome here. Violence is not welcome here.
It is particularly appalling that they have chosen the historic site of Vanport, which was home to a significant portion of Portland’s Black population, as the site for this weekend’s rally. These groups also continue to demonize those who offer a multicultural perspective of history. It is not unpatriotic or un-American to have a just and equitable vision for our future. These types of divisive and provocative tactics are as old as Joseph McCarthy, George Wallace, and Richard Nixon and our community deserve better.
Reports also indicate people from around the country are likely to join. And we have a simple message to those who intend on traveling to Oregon to pick a fight: Stay home. Multnomah County has no patience for these distractions.
The far right’s rhetoric and intimidation with the flashing of firearms divert attention from the real issues our community is facing: deep-seated institutional racism and sexism, over-policing, and a broken system of criminal justice. Addressing these issues requires us to confront where we fall short, so we can build a better future. That work deserves our full energy and attention, undeterred by those afraid of what it means to live up to those ideals.
The work that needs to happen has begun among community members, elected officials, and civic leaders. We may not always agree on how to best achieve our goals, but we all see the promise of what we can be, together, as a community. So we urge our community not to engage with these outside agitators. Let’s not give them the platform they seek, nor the credence to be a distraction from the work ahead of us. Let’s come together and work toward our shared mission of real transformation.”
The planned events come after a summer of unrest in Portland following the death of George Floyd, whose killing in Minneapolis sparked renewed life into the Black Lives Matter movement. Hundreds have been arrested in connection with the protests, which started May 28.
However, August saw the most violence between left- and right-wing protesters after right-wing protesters clashed with left-wing protesters outside of the Multnomah County Justice Center on Aug. 22 and a shooting following a pro-Trump caravan rally on Aug. 29 left one man, Aaron J. Danielson, dead. The suspect, Michael F. Reinoehl, was shot and killed by authorities in Washington days after the downtown Portland shooting.
Follow KOIN 6 for the latest news and weather