Gov. Kate Brown watches as Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty speaks at a Monday afternoon press conference.
Gov. Kate Brown watches as Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty speaks at a Monday afternoon press conference. Governor Kate Brown

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has activated 50 members of the National Guard and one hundred Oregon State Troopers to assist Portland law enforcement's response to continuing demonstrations following the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

In an afternoon press conference, Brown explained that National Guard soldiers will not be carrying weapons or be on the front lines of the protests. Instead, these soldiers will be working "behind the scenes" to assist law enforcement in processing protester arrests and providing medical care.

"Our goal should be to reduce violence," she said. "You don't diffuse violence by putting soldiers on our streets. Having soldiers on the streets of America is exactly what [Donald] Trump wants."

Brown said that Trump, on a Monday morning call with all US governors, made it clear that he "wants governors to deploy the National Guard as a show of force to intimidate the public." That's not what Oregon members of the National Guard will be doing in Portland, according to Brown.

Brown's announcement comes after Wheeler and US Attorney for Oregon Billy Williams requested assistance from the National Guard during an early morning press conference.

"Everyone is doing their best, but we need bodies," Williams said at the City Hall conference. "We need more numbers to do something to stop this ridiculous violence."

Oregon joins 23 other states and Washington, DC in calling on National Guard soldiers to back up local and state police forces responding to protests, some of which have resulted in broken windows, graffiti, theft, and arson.

In Portland, along with many other cities, police officers have responded to demonstrations with tear gas and flash-bang munitions. Mayor Ted Wheeler has attempted to curtail the protests by instituting nightly 8 pm curfews, but the rule has done little to keep demonstrators from rallying until the early morning hours.

Portland police officers have already closed off sections of downtown Portland this afternoon after seeing protesters begin to gather in the area—and several other demonstrations are scheduled for later tonight.

Brown was joined by Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty and Oregon State Senator Lew Frederick, African American politicians who cautiously supported Brown's call.

"I will tell you when the governor first called me and mentioned National Guard I was like, 'No no no,' that was my immediate response," Hardesty said.

But, after talking with Portland Police Chief Jami Resch, who explained how police officers have been working almost 24 hours straight over the weekend, Hardesty said her mind changed.

"I think we can all agree that having tired police officers on the street doesn't benefit the public, and it certainly doesn't benefit the public employees who are sworn to protect and serve," she continued. "People don't make good decisions when they are tired, when they are frustrated, and they have been working non-stop three days in a row."

Hardesty said she was only comfortable about the idea of using the National Guard after hearing they wouldn't be on the street or directly interacting with the crowd.

"I want to be crystal clear: We are not going to have armed people on the people on every corner in the city of Portland," Hardesty said. "We will make sure that the space is there for people to exercise their constitutional rights."

Frederick, meanwhile, stressed that the work to improve police interactions with people of color doesn't stop at protests. He said that he's working with other legislators of color to propose no less than 15 bills meant to strengthen police accountability policies across the state—including one that would make it easier for cities to fire officers who kill or gravely injure members of the public.

Frederick somberly recalled the countless number of protests he's attended after people of color were killed or maimed by police in Portland.

"We have to find a way to stop this," he said. "I am pleased to see the allies of all colors now stepping forward to do something about this. But I want to see some action, and I hope we will."