Gov. Kate Brown activiated National Guard units on standby in Portland Wednesday night after violence erupted downtown, resulting in numerous broken windows, several arrests and the seizure of weapons and fireworks.
Roughly 50 members of the Guard responded to violence in downtown Portland late Wednesday at the governor’s direction. The team was comprised of members specifically trained in civilian law enforcement standards.
Social media posts from last night appeared to show the troops in camouflage fatigues and riot gear supporting local law enforcement officers. Other posts indicated the protests were linked to Black Lives Matter demonstrations as well as criticism of Tuesday’s presidential election — which is yet to be decided.
“Two groups gathered in downtown Portland last night,” Brown said in a statement. “One group demonstrated peacefully for hours by the waterfront. Their clarion call advocating for racial justice and Black lives has resonated with Oregonians and driven real reform over the past several months.
“Unfortunately, a second group of self-styled anarchist protesters, some armed, also marched downtown last night, with no discernible goal other than to cause violence and vandalism.”
Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell said in a video statement early Thursday that a group of protesters assembled downtown and began engaging in “widespread violent behavior, such as destruction of property, smashing of ATMs and shattering of windows to many businesses and intimidating behavior.”
“This prompted an unlawful assembly and later a riot declaration as their criminal behavior escalated,” Lovell said.
Final Update for the November 4th unlawful assembly/riot from MCSO Sheriff Mike Reese, @PortlandPolice Chief Chuck Lovell and @ORStatePolice Superintendent Terri Davie. pic.twitter.com/jmHutICCKB
Guard forces were only operating in support of conventional law enforcement officers, and none of them was armed, according to Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese said in a statement.
Like Brown, Reese also noted that another protest that took place in a different part of Portland had been entirely peaceful and required no emergency response.
The sheriff’s office reported that it seized at least one loaded rifle — marked with a sticker reading “DEAD TYRANT SOCIETY” — spare magazines, a knife and commercial fireworks from 23-year-old William K. Beecher, who was suspected of throwing a firework at officers.
Beecher was wearing a ballistics vest, police said.
At about 11:15 p.m., Oregon State Police troopers stopped a vehicle without license plates that was interfering with traffic. They discovered the driver, Wesley C. Fant, had a handgun and arrested him.
He was also wearing body armor marked with “No Klan,” “Make Racists Afraid Again” and “ACAB,” according to photos released by law enforcement. He was booked on an illegal firearms charge.
The group of approximately 100 people shattered windows at Saint Andre Bessette Church — which provides meals, hygiene and groceries to the homeless in Portland — a women-owned and operated business that raises money for immigrant and women’s rights, and many other storefronts along West Burnside Street, according to the governor.
“Indiscriminate destruction solves nothing. These are acts of privilege,” Brown said. “For weeks, Oregonians have called for an end to the violence. 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.”
At least 10 people were arrested, police said. Officers recovered multiple firearms, ammunition, a knife, commercial and consumer-grade fireworks, body armor and gas masks, among other items.
There were no reported injuries, police said, and no tear gas was used. The group had mostly dispersed by 1:30 a.m.
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