PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who is also the police commissioner, announced on Friday that anyone coming to a Sunday rally featuring the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer should not expect law enforcement to intervene in violence.
“We are dedicated to keeping the peace. Our ask is simple: We are asking you to choose love,” Wheeler said during a Friday afternoon press conference. “People should not necessarily expect to see the police standing in the middle of the crowd trying to keep people apart. People need to keep themselves apart and avoid physical confrontation.”
Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell said it isn’t “the best tactical approach” for police to wade into violent crowds to intervene, and that the bureau is more likely to make arrests after the event has concluded.
“You should not expect to see police officers standing in the middle of crowds trying to keep people apart. Remember: Arrests do not always happen in the moment,” Lovell said. “If you’re considering coming downtown to fight, threaten people or participate in violence: Stay away. If people do engage in violent activity or property destruction, they face arrest and prosecution.”
The announcement did not come as a shock to many in the community after the Portland Police Bureau’s Rapid Response Team quit earlier this year after one officer was charged with assault while facing a violent mob and the district attorney refused to file charges on hundreds of rioters. What was once a 50 member team, was specially trained to respond to mass gatherings and civil unrest.
“Not having the Rapid Response Team will force us to make some changes on how we respond to major crowd control events like this may end up being,” Lovell said. “That team was highly trained for responding in a coordinated manner to all types of civil unrest.”
Portland has also not been able to fill the newly “re-formed” violence reduction team after that team was disbanded last year after being accused of racial disparity.