PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Monday put the National Guard on standby for a 48-hour period around Election Day and used her executive authority to activate a unified command of state troopers, sheriff’s deputies and Portland police to handle any protests.
Portland has seen near nightly protests for five months after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and many demonstrations end in vandalism, arson and violent clashes with officers. President Donald Trump’s call for a crackdown on protests in Democratic-led cities has attracted right-wing groups to the city for “law and order” rallies and pro-Trump events.
“We’ve seen firsthand what happens when free expression is fueled by hate,” the Democratic governor said. “We know that there are some people who might want to use peaceful election night protests to promote violence and property destruction,”
“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.
The unified command will begin at 5 p.m. Monday and end at 5 p.m. Wednesday. It can be extended if necessary, Brown said.
State police and the Multnomah County sheriff’s office will oversee the unified force. That allows its members to use tear gas if needed. Portland police are prohibited from using tear gas after an order by Mayor Ted Wheeler, who is also police commissioner.
Authorities used a similar joint command approach to police a right-wing rally and counterprotests in late September.
Wheeler, who is in a tight reelection race, thanked the governor for taking the action.
“Oregon is likely to be a flashpoint,” he said of post-election protests. “Our partnership prevented violence in the past, and I hope it will do so again.”
Oregon State Police sent its mobile response team to Portland on Monday, agency Superintendent Terri Davie said.
The role of the National Guard will be fluid and decided as events unfold, said Maj. Gen. Michael Stencil, head of the Guard.
Oregon is a universal vote-by-mail state, and voters who have not mailed back their ballots have until 8 p.m. Tuesday to deposit them in designated ballot drop boxes.
Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese said deputies will be conducting stepped-up patrols to monitor for voter intimidation.