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Portland prepares for potentially violent weekend protests

August 20, 2021 GMT

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Ahead of expected rallies between opposing groups in downtown Portland on Sunday, city leaders denounced violence and urged demonstrators to “choose to act peacefully.”

Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell said Friday that all available personnel will be reporting for duty and that officers will arrest people engaging in violent activity and property destruction. However, despite predicted clashes, officials say police will not necessarily be standing in between opposing groups.

“This is our main message: if you are planning to come down to instigate fights with those you disagree with, don’t come,” Lovell said. “You should not expect to see police officers standing in the middle of the crowd trying to keep people apart. People should keep themselves apart and avoid physical confrontation.”

Lovell and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler did not name the groups expected to gather that “may choose to confront one another”at Tom McCall Waterfront Park on Sunday afternoon. Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that it is far-right groups who are planning a rally. At this time, officials say no permits have been requested or issued for these events.

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“Hate and hate groups have no place in our city. Violence has no place in our city. Bigotry has no place in our city,” Wheeler said. “We will not tolerate acts of violence, destruction, prejudice or intimidation.”

Similar events in Portland between groups with differing political ideations or affiliations have resulted in violent clashes. Sunday’s event falls on the one-year anniversary of a particularly violent political clash in which the opposing groups brawled on the street next to police headquarters for hours.

“As we’ve seen in the past, these events can be subverted by people who come with the intent to commit either acts of violence or destruction or sometimes both,” Wheeler said. “To those people who want to engage in this kind of behavior, I say this: do not show up.”

Portland police warned that people who have shown up to similar events in the past had weapons.

In addition, city officials have advised building owners and managers to close and lock their dumpsters, which have often been set on fire during protests or pushed into roadways.

Lovell did not discuss specifics about the police bureau’s tactical planning. However, the police chief did say that he canceled days off for most sworn personnel and that it will be an “all hands day.”

In the past Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency in Portland ahead of far-right rallies that were expected to draw an unruly crowd. Lovell said that due to staffing shortages the department has 145 officers less than last year. The bureau is working with Oregon State Police, the sheriff’s office and other local partners to address this weekend’s demonstrations.

Sara Cline is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.