Gov. Kate Brown has called on the Oregon National Guard to respond to a demonstration taking place in downtown Portland.
At 5 pm, several hundred Black Lives Matter protesters gathered at the North Park Blocks for a rally, which turned into a march through downtown Portland streets. Some members of the group smashed windows of businesses as they passed by, actions that prompted a response by law enforcement from multiple agencies.
According to Mercury contributor Suzette Smith, law enforcement officers far outnumbered the group of 150 protesters.
Under a temporary executive order, Brown has placed Oregon State Police (OSP) and the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) in charge of policing Portland protests through the end of the week. This order puts Portland Police Bureau (PPB) officers under the command of OSP and MCSO—a strategic move that allows all officers the ability to use CS gas (or tear gas) on members of the public. The joint leadership team has been dubbed "unified command."
Officers immediately declared the march an "unlawful assembly"—a designation that was quickly upgraded to "riot." By 7 pm, MCSO announced that Brown had activated the National Guard, claiming that protesters were engaging in "widespread violence."
"We don’t take this decision lightly," wrote MSCO in a tweet.
Journalists on the ground first observed a group of camouflaged vehicles carrying members of the National Guard driving through downtown Portland around 8:15 pm.
National Guard OTG pic.twitter.com/5Z7iSkTPhC
— Mathieu Lewis-Rolland (@MathieuLRolland) November 5, 2020
Brown is the only elected official with the ability to deploy the Oregon National Guard.
Brown's office has not responded to the Mercury's request for comment on why this decision was made.
Update: On Wednesday morning, Brown issued a press release explaining her decision.
Brown described one group of protesters as "self-styled anarchist[s]... with no discernible goal other than to cause violence and vandalism."
"Indiscriminate destruction solves nothing," Brown said. "These are acts of privilege. At the request of the [law enforcement] protecting free speech and keeping the peace in Portland, I activated the Oregon National Guard last night. These are Oregonians like you and me, who have volunteered their time and taken leave from their jobs and their families to keep the streets of Portland safe."
"For weeks, Oregonians have called for an end to the violence," Brown continued. "I will continue to do everything in my power to keep the peace in Portland and make sure that people can make their voices heard safely."
According to Jim Middaugh, spokesperson for Mayor Ted Wheeler, the unified command team alerted Wheeler's office when the National Guard was being deployed. Wheeler was not consulted before the call was made.
"The system is working the way it's supposed to under the unified command structure," said Middaugh.