Governor Kate Brown is dispatching Oregon National Guard troops to the state Capitol in the coming days, as officials brace for the possibility of armed protests in the run-up to the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden on Jan. 20.
The Oregon State Police asked for the additional support after federal authorities warned that armed demonstrations and even attempted assaults on government buildings are possible in the week to come.
“For the past seven months, your troopers have responded throughout Oregon to various protests, unlawful assemblies and riots,” said OSP Superintendent Terri Davie. “Our goals have always been to protect people, protect people’s rights and to protect property.
“The recent events at our nation’s Capitol building and at our own statehouse illustrate the need for law enforcement to be prepared and appropriately staffed for any large gatherings.”
The Oregon Army National Guard will be deployed as necessary, officials said, and their deployment locations will not be made public.
State troopers and guard members routinely work and train together in response to Oregon’s challenges, including during times of civil unrest and the recent wildfire response.
State police will take a “neutral role” in ensuring the safety of Oregonians, as well as the protection of First Amendment rights, Davie said.
“With the Oregon National Guard supplementing OSP ranks, we will be ready to ensure peaceful events and handle emergency situations,” said Oregon State Police Captain Timothy Fox.
The Oregon State Capitol has been the site of at least two large demonstrations in the past month, by groups protesting President Donald Trump’s loss in the November election and statewide coronavirus restrictions impacting businesses and schools.
On Dec. 21, demonstrators swapped pepper spray with state and city police officers — with a handful managing to force their way into the building, where they continued to clash with law enforcement.
And on Jan. 6, men claiming affiliation with the right-wing Proud Boys brawled with counter-protesters in the streets while a smaller group again attempted to break into the Capitol — including Cody Melby, of Beavercreek, who is alleged to have fired shots at a federal courthouse two days later.
OSP said troopers will also work with other local, state and federal partners in providing safety for lawmakers and staff at the Oregon State Capitol or any other jurisdiction.
State police did not discuss specifics of the potential threats or response plans, citing public safety.