Some Portland police officers to be deputized as federal officers for Saturday’s Proud Boy rally, counter-protests

Updated Sep 25, 2020; Posted Sep 25, 2020

“I want violent individuals thinking about the enhanced penalties they may face if they harm a Portland Police Bureau officer,” Oregon State Police Supt. Travis Hampton said Friday. August 10, 2020 Beth Nakamura/Staff

By Maxine Bernstein | The Oregonian/OregonLive

About 50 Portland police officers assigned to the Police Bureau’s specialized crowd control Rapid Response Teams will be deputized as federal marshals for Saturday’s law enforcement response to rallies planned by the far-right group Proud Boys and left-wing counter-demonstrators.

Oregon State Police Supt. Travis Hampton, who was tapped by the governor to lead the police response with Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese under an emergency executive order, asked that the U.S. Marshals Service grant the Portland police officers in the special squad the federal powers. The Rapid

“Portland officers have been serving on the front lines of nightly protests for months, sustaining injuries and encountering unspeakable violence,” Hampton told The Oregonian/OregonLive. “If I am to send them into harm’s way this weekend, on my authority, I’m going to ensure they have all the protections and authority of OSP troopers.”

The U.S. Marshals Service will deputize the officers early Saturday morning before the simultaneous noon rallies in North Portland.

The action will allow federal prosecutors to bring allegations of assault on a federal officer, if the deputized Portland police officers face attacks from any demonstrators, including the throwing of fireworks, rocks, bottles or other objects at them.

Federal offenses typically carry a stiffer sentence.

“I want violent individuals thinking about the enhanced penalties they may face if they harm a Portland Police Bureau officer,” Hampton said.

Portland’s Rapid Response Teams are the riot-clad officers armed with impact munitions who are typically called in to disperse crowds once a riot or unlawful assembly has been declared.

Oregon State Police, Sheriff’s Office to command police response as Proud Boys come to Portland

About 50 members of the Oregon State Police mobile field force, the state agency’s crowd control squad, were deputized as federal officers earlier this summer when Gov. Kate Brown sent in state police on July 30 to take over security of the exterior of the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse for two weeks. The move allowed squads of federal officers to retreat into the courthouse, and state troopers to respond to any problems outside the courthouse or in the streets around it.

The federal courthouse had become a focal point of demonstrations that often devolved into violence at night. By then, the number of people demonstrating had swelled, demanding that an extra contingent of federal officers sent to Portland to secure the courthouse go home.

The downtown protest scene typically devolved late at night as some protesters lobbed fireworks, bottles and cans at the courthouse and federal officers, shined lasers in officers’ eyes and tried to dismantle a reinforced fence outside. Federal tactical officers, many dressed in camouflage fatigues, responded with aggressive force, firing tear gas and impact munitions into the crowds and pushing people several blocks away.

The deputized Portland police and state troopers will continue to make arrests on state charges.

Those cases are then reviewed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and federal prosecutors determine with officers if any cases warrant federal charges, according to federal prosecutors. The deputizing of officers as special deputy U.S. Marshals lasts for one year. It’s unclear whether that will be terminated after this weekend or not.

Since late May, federal prosecutors have accused 40 people of assaulting a federal officer, 21 people of failing to comply with federal orders, 11 people of federal civil disorder, four of federal arson or attempted arson, four of creating a disturbance on federal property, four of destruction of federal government property and one of violating national defense airspace through the use of a drone, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

“Already limited public safety resources are fatigued and stretched thin. Our community deserves an end to the violence. Together, we need to call out violent agitators on the right and the left and stand up for civility,” Oregon’s U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams said in a statement Friday.

“Local residents and anyone traveling to Portland with the intent to commit violence are on notice. There will be consequences for acts of violence,” he said. “Make no mistake: those who commit violence in the name of protest, will be investigated, arrested, prosecuted, and face prison time.”

-- Maxine Bernstein