Sep 25, 2020
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown Press Conference Transcript September 25: Portland Protests
Oregon Governor Kate Brown held a press conference on September 25 to discuss the protests expected to take place over the weekend in Portland. Read the transcript of her briefing here.
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Kate Brown: (00:00)
Then I need to do everything I can as Governor, to ensure the safety of Oregonians. I have spoken with Mayor Wheeler, Commissioner Hardesty, Multnomah County Chair, Deborah Kafoury Sheriff Reese and Speaker Kotek. Out of this conversation, came the agreement that we must have a coordinated effort across state and local law enforcement officials to keep everyone safe this weekend. To do that, I am exercising my authority to put the Superintendent of State Police and the Multnomah County Sheriff in charge of public safety in Portland this weekend.
Kate Brown: (00:41)
The mayor has agreed to and supports this effort. This is our entire community coming together to protect our community. We want the highest level of coordination and the strongest leadership possible. Multnomah County Sheriff, Mike Reese, Oregon State Superintendent, Travis Hampton, and Portland Police Chief Chuck Leavell will work together to keep people safe this weekend. This is a critical moment. We have seen what happens when armed vigilantes take matters into their own hands. We’ve seen it in Charlottesville. We’ve seen it in Kenosha, and unfortunately we’ve seen it in Portland.
Kate Brown: (01:26)
The Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer groups have come to Portland time and time again, from out of town, looking for a fight and the results are always tragic. Let me be perfectly clear. We will not tolerate any kind of violence this weekend. Left, right or center, violence is never a path toward meaningful change. Peaceful protest is the only path toward change. Those stoking the flames of violence, those coming to Portland, looking for a fight, will be held accountable. Before I hand it over to our law enforcement officials to give an overview of how this unified command structure will operate this weekend, I also feel compelled to address the feelings of outrage, hopelessness, and heartbreak over racism in America, especially on the heels of the recent charging decision in the Breonna Taylor case.
Kate Brown: (02:29)
America needs to hear this. Breonna Taylor deserves justice, and this week’s Grand Jury decision was not justice. I know that there are many here in Oregon and across our country that are outraged and absolutely frustrated. Many people are hurting. Through our pain, we must continue to work toward racial justice and police accountability. The people who enforce our laws cannot be above the law. Our justice system is not just unless it works for everyone. In Oregon, we are actively making the changes we want to see in the world. Since George Floyd’s murder, we’ve passed six bills, improving police accountability.
Kate Brown: (03:22)
We’ve launched a statewide racial justice council to center racial equity in our budget and policy decisions. We have a team already working to re-envision police training and standards for all law enforcement officials in Oregon. These steps are just a start. There is still much more work to do to create an Oregon that works for all of us. Let’s continue that work together. Let’s continue to say the names of black Americans whose lives have been taken by racist violence and honor them by recommitting ourselves to meaningful change. Let’s work together to create a better Oregon for everyone. Thank you. With that, I’m going to turn it over to Superintendent Hampton.
Travis Hampton: (04:11)
Thank you, Governor. Good morning. Travis Hampton, Superintendent of State Police. I think, before I discuss what this unified command will look like and what it is, I need to say what it is not. This, in no way, is an indictment of our colleagues at the Portland Police Bureau for the job they’ve done or would have done this weekend. They have, they’ve been the Portland Police Bureau. Their officers have endured some incredibly mentally and physically taxing situations for over a hundred days, while they have done the best they can to keep Portland streets safe. While the Governor has elevated Sheriff Reece and I to assume the role of Joint Incident Commanders for a 48-hour period, Saturday and Sunday, it wasn’t too long ago that you’ll recall that I placed 100 State Troopers under the authority of the Portland Police Bureau.
Travis Hampton: (05:05)
It wasn’t too long ago that the federal government placed the safety and security of their federal buildings in Portland, for a 14-day period under my supervision. This Joint Incident Command with the Sheriff, the Chief and myself will bring consistency and continuity of our operations to the City of Portland. It will allow us to provide the best public safety services we can over the coming weekend, the message from this unified leadership is clear. If you want to come to Oregon, to Portland, to peacefully protest, to assemble, to voice your outrage, to voice your concern. We welcome you for that. If your job, if your intent is to come to Oregon, to commit crimes, to provoke, to make people feel unsafe in their homes, we do not want you to come here and we will do our very best to interdict that criminal behavior as it arrive on our streets in Portland.
Travis Hampton: (06:00)
You will see a massive influx of Oregon State Police Troopers beginning tomorrow morning. They will be saturating North Portland, Interstate 5, between the venues of Delta Park and Peninsula Park with our colleagues, the Portland Police Bureau and the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office and allied agencies within Multnomah County. We will not talk specifics of our tactical plan tomorrow. Much of it, quite frankly, is still in the planning phase. But I just want to let Portland residents know that your State Troopers, your Portland Police Officers and Multnomah County Deputy Sheriffs will be out in force to keep you safe. We also want to send a message that well before the event, if your intent is to come to Oregon, to bring incendiary devices, to bring narcotics, to bring firearms unlawfully, we will do our best to take those off the streets.
Travis Hampton: (06:51)
If that is your intent, please don’t come. Then, when folks who will arrive at the venue, we will do our best, collectively, to provide venues to exercise free speech and to keep hostile parties, if they arrive, apart from one another. Hopefully, we will have a peaceful day, a peaceful event where we use no force, we make no arrests and we provide an opportunity for people to feel safe in their homes and exercise their constitutional rights within the City of Portland. I just want to reaffirm our commitment collectively, how we will work together, how we will bring every resource to bear at the State of Oregon’s disposal, within the County and the City of Portland. We will do this together and in the spirit of having a day absent of criminal conduct and injury. Thank you.
Speaker 3: (07:44)
All right. We’re going to open up for questions. We have time for just a few questions today. For the reporters on the line, please press zero to work with the operator, to ask a question. We’ll start with Ray Gasaway with KATU. Go ahead, Ray.
Ray. G.: (08:00)
Thank you guys for taking these questions. My question’s for the Governor, and then the law enforcement leaders. The last time these groups came to Portland, Chief Leavell said, after the fact, that he didn’t have the resources to safely get in between these groups. My question is with more resources here this weekend, is the goal going to be to keep these groups separate before they come in contact with each other so that you’re then not having to intervene in what’s an unsafe scenario?
Kate Brown: (08:26)
I’ll let law enforcement answer that question.
Travis Hampton: (08:29)
Do I send this mic needs to rotate?
Speaker 8: (08:33)
[inaudible 00:00:08:34] Are you answering it?
Travis Hampton: (08:34)
Chuck Leavell: (08:38)
Thank you. Our goal is to keep groups separate. This action actually provides us with additional resources that’ll help us in that endeavor. Everything we do is in response to the actions of someone in the crowd or someone engaging in criminal activity. If that activity doesn’t take place, we’ll be well-resourced for a safe event. But the overarching goal for us, is to provide a safe space and to keep people from engaging in violence and criminal activity.
Ray. G.: (09:09)
A quick followup on that. Last time, there were about 30 officers out there. Can we get an estimate on how many troopers, deputies and officers would be out this weekend?
Kate Brown: (09:20)
I’ll just say … This is the Governor. I’ll just say that I am confident that law enforcement is adequately resourced to tackle the situation.
Ray. G.: (09:36)
Speaker 3: (09:36)
Thanks Ray. Our next question is from Lisa Balick with KOIN. Go ahead, Lisa. It looks like we lost Lisa. We go next to Rosemary Reynolds with KXL. Go ahead, Rosemary.
Rosemary Reynolds: (09:51)
Governor, I’m wondering, we’ve been talking a lot about First Amendment Rights for weeks on end now, and it’s coming up again with this situation. Would it not have been wise [inaudible 00:10:06] and to have people, maybe not have their events all on the same day? What’s the advice there?
Kate Brown: (10:14)
Look, we’re really, really clear that hate has no place in the City of Portland and the entire State of Oregon. Our law enforcement is absolutely committed to protecting free speech, and they are going to work extremely hard to deescalate the situation by keeping the groups apart. That’s what we’re going to do this weekend. My top goal is to make sure that Oregonians are safe and that folks that want to exercise their right to free speech can do so, safely and peacefully.
Speaker 3: (10:54)
Thanks Rosemary. Lisa Balick sent in her question in writing. She asks, what will you be doing to protect neighborhoods nearby, to keep families safe?
Travis Hampton: (11:11)
Hi, this is Travis Hampton with State Police. To show families that we are doing our best to keep them safe, we, like I mentioned earlier, we’ll have a large influx of uniform patrol officers. These men and women, the State Troopers, Deputy Sheriffs, Portland Police Officers, will be in their neighborhoods along the thoroughfares and come out and talk to us. Come learn our names. You don’t often see this many State Troopers in North Portland. So, come out and see what we’re all about. Come out, grab a sticker from us, come out and visit us. Tell us what your concerns are. This is your neighborhood. We want you to feel safe in your home, in your playgrounds and at your schools.
Travis Hampton: (11:51)
Come out and visit with us. We’re going to be there to visit with you. Like the Chief mentioned, we hope we don’t have to engage law enforcement efforts in custody arrests or use of force. We would love to have this be a beautiful rainy, sunny day, whatever Oregon delivers for us tomorrow, where we are just police officers in your neighborhood, to keep you safe and then make you feel comfortable in your own homes.
Speaker 3: (12:17)
Thanks, Lisa. Our next question is also in writing from a Maxine Bernstein from the Oregonian. Maxine asks, why do you believe there was a need to have state police and the Sheriff’s office and not Portland police lead this unified response for this weekend?
Kate Brown: (12:32)
We know that we are much stronger together and that by coming together, we were able to assess the needs of this particular situation and determined that this was the right approach. We have been doing that over the last several weeks and months, city, state, and local officials all working together. We came together collectively, and made a decision that this was the best approach, that coming forward with a unified command structure would ensure that people could stay safe and that we could keep the peace.
Speaker 3: (13:03)
Thanks, Maxine. Our next question is from Dirk VanderHart with OPB. Go ahead, Dirk.
Dirk VanderHart: (13:11)
Wait, can you hear me?
Kate Brown: (13:12)
Dirk VanderHart: (13:18)
Okay. Governor, can you be a little more explicit on your authority of what you’re doing here? Is it actually an emergency declaration that’s putting this command structure into place? Secondarily, does this command structure allow for the use of CS gas, if that’s determined to be necessary?
Kate Brown: (13:32)
I’ll let law enforcement answer the second part of the question. We’re getting a lot of feedback. Okay. Thank you. Yes. I am using my Executive Authority as Governor to create a Unified Command Structure. It will create a collective, collaborative approach, bringing all of our law enforcement officials together, to make sure that we can work to keep people safe throughout the weekend, and that folks can participate in free speech activities, peacefully. The second part of the question is the tools available.
Travis Hampton: (14:18)
Thank you, governor I’ll answer in part, then I think I’ll pass it down to Sheriff Reese, my colleague. Now, the short answer to your question is yes, operating in the Governor’s Emergency Authority, statutory authority, with Sheriff Reese and Oregon State Police, assuming the Joint Incident Commander role, we will not remove CS gas as a possibility from these events. We will use it judiciously. We hope we do not use it at all, but under this authority, we will make this available to not only State Troopers, Deputy Sheriffs, but Portland Police Officers. I will pass the microphone down to Sheriff Reese.
Michael Reese: (14:58)
I think it’s important to remember that our responsibility at these events is to keep the peace, and that our goal is to support people’s right to peacefully gather and to express whatever message they came to express. We are responsive to the actions of people at these events, and we’re there to, if we have to, hold people accountable for criminal acts that may endanger everybody’s safety. Certainly with the use of any tool or option, we’re always going to be proportional in our response and we want to do everything we can to intercede early so that we don’t have to get to a higher level of force, if it’s required to keep the peace. I want to be really clear that the use of any option will be a last resort. If there is a need for CS, it would be after a life-safety event, where people’s lives are at risk and we’re doing everything we can to protect people and to protect our officers, the Deputy Sheriffs and State Troopers.
Speaker 3: (16:10)
Thanks, Dirk. Our next question is from Hank Sanders with Willamette Week. Go ahead, Hank.
Hank Sanders: (16:21)
Hi. Thank you for taking my question. My question is, if people are gathering without a permit, will they be allowed to still gather or will action be taken against that?
Kate Brown: (16:32)
Chief Leavell, do you want respond to that?
Chuck Leavell: (16:40)
Sure. When people gather without a permit, we’ve had several gatherings the last 100 days without permits, we look at these events and just try to judge what’s the safest way for us to manage them, what resources we have available. In many cases, people do gather without a permit. We deny permits. We approve permits, but when people do gather, we look at it and how do we best manage this event? What’s the best outcome for people’s safety and things of that nature? We don’t really know how many people are going to show up. This is not the type of thing people RSVP to. There’s going to be the potential that we get a very, very large crowd, and then given our ability to manage that crowd safely, that’ll determine what we do.
Speaker 3: (17:31)
Thanks Hank. Our next question is from Keaton Thomas with KATU. Go ahead Keaton.
Hey, thanks for taking the call. My question is, we normally see quite a few firearms at events like this. What’s the policy that you guys are to be operating, moving forward, with respect to seeing firearms at these gatherings?
Kate Brown: (17:57)
Superintendent Hampton, would you like to take that?
Yes. Thank you, Governor. We have not only have state statute at our disposal, but we also have city code. There are some concealed handgun license provisions for people that want to openly carry firearms. We do have situations where people can not possess them at all, like a convicted felon. We deal with this quite often at the capitol, where we, if the situation allows, we do like to question the individuals, if they are carrying their firearm lawfully or not. If they are not, we educate them or we take appropriate, proportional enforcement action. Obviously, if you see a conduct like pointing a firearm at another, that’s an overt criminal act and we expect to take action immediately for that.
Whether that’s a hands-on by a police officer or through a chemical munition, if the crowd is too large of a size for us to handle. But we do help to educate and interdict as much as this conduct as we can, before it arrives in the City of Portland tomorrow morning, through our uniform patrol efforts. Our uniform patrol efforts provided by all three agencies and more within Multnomah County. Sheriff, do you have anything else to add to that? No. Thank you.
Speaker 3: (19:13)
Okay. Thanks Keaton. We have time for just two more questions. Maxine from the Oregonian had a followup. She asks was, Mayor Ted Wheeler supportive of this arrangement, and did you seek his approval before this, Governor?
Kate Brown: (19:25)
Absolutely. We had a meeting, virtually of course, with local elected officials, including the Speaker of the Oregon House, the Chair of Multnomah County Commission, Deborah Kafoury and the Mayor and Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty. Through that process, we came to a collective agreement that this particular tool, that is, my using my Executive Authority to ensure that law enforcement had adequate resources for the weekend, in order to prevent violence was the appropriate strategy for this particular weekend. The mayor was supportive of that approach.
Speaker 3: (20:09)
Thanks, Maxine. It looks like Lisa Balick was able to call back in. Lisa, last question goes to you. Are you there Lisa?
Lisa Balick: (20:21)
Yes, I am. Thanks. Just a followup. At what point and where will you put people if you make multiple arrests?
Kate Brown: (20:32)
I’ll turn that over. Lisa to the law enforcement community.
Speaker 3: (20:35)
Could you hear the question, Sir?
Michael Reese: (20:39)
Lisa, if you could repeat that, that would be appreciative.
Lisa Balick: (20:45)
The question is, if you make multiple arrests, where will you be able to put people?
Michael Reese: (20:52)
Again, our goal is to not make any arrests, to keep the peace and to have our mere presence as peacekeepers, allow for people to gather and to express themselves. If we have to make arrests, we’ll use our mobile booking teams as well as Police Officers and Deputy Sheriffs to transport people to our Justice Center for processing, and take appropriate action from that.
Kate Brown: (21:21)
Lisa, let me be perfectly clear though, that individuals who commit serious violent acts will be charged, prosecuted and held accountable.
Speaker 3: (21:32)
Thanks Lisa. That’s all the time we have for questions today. Thanks everyone for calling in.
Kate Brown: (21:37)
Thank you all. Please stay safe.