At a press conference on Monday, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said he plans to pass a bill this week to respond to "escalating" street violence.
The bill would allow the mayor, who also serves as police commissioner, to dictate the location and length of the protests if they pose a threat to public safety or a disruption of public services.
Although Wheeler did not mention any groups by name, the decree comes after frequent clashes between two conflicting political groups: the right-wing Patriot Prayer of Southwest Washington and left-wing Antifa Protesters in Portland. The conflicts have triggered a steady wave of negative press for Wheeler, especially in partisan media.
"I will not allow continued street violence to take place between rival factions on the streets of Portland," said Wheeler.
Describing his rationale for the new rules, the mayor describes a series of escalating incidents between the two groups ̵
Wheeler said on August 4, "before launching a scheduled demonstration, the Portland Police Bureau discovered individuals who had positioned themselves on a roof parking lot in downtown Portland with a cache of firearms."
Deputy Chief of Police Ryan Lee provided details of the incident. He said police officers, worried that the men were in an elevated position over a large protest venue, confiscated their weapons for safekeeping and "these individuals were diverted."
Lee said the police saw if the men had committed a criminal offense, but concluded that they had not done so because they had hidden the transportation permits. He identified the men as associated with Patriot Prayer.
Joey Gibson, leader of the Patriot Prayer, first told OPB he was unaware of the incident. But he said that after talking to a police department official, he thought Lee and Wheeler had mistaken the incident during the press conference. According to Gibson, the men parked their cars in the garage and were intercepted by the police, who told them that no weapons would be allowed on August 4. According to Gibson, the police allowed the men to store their firearms in their vehicles.
Wheeler said his decree, which was still in the draft, would allow him in his role as police commissioner to regulate time, place and matter
As the mayor described it, the rules in the decree could be broad Range of protests can be applied in Portland, well beyond the clashes between Patriot Prayer and Antifa.
Wheeler said it could be triggered in cases where two or more groups plan to demonstrate on the same day and have a history of violence, but also if a protest is considered a "danger to the safety of participants or bystanders "Obstruction of public accessibility" was considered "property or disruption of public services," or if there was a "substantial likelihood of violence," based on information gathered in advance.
Wheeler said his written orders violated "The time and place of a protest would be an offense that demonstrators could face after arrest."
"I have also asked my staff to seek ways to hold accountable to those who are our public Utilize resources by using the city as a venue for planned street violence. "
Wheelers Four Col Only a few hours before Wheeler publicly announced his plan, he first learned about the bill. In a statement sent to the press, Commissioner Chloe Eudaly signaled that the mayor may find it difficult to vote.
"I share the Mayor's concern and the public's frustration with these violent and disruptive demonstrations, but as a strong proponent of freedom of expression, speech and assembly, I am very reluctant to support a policy that is in any way against them could violate fundamental constitutional rights, "Eudaly wrote.
And the regulation could face legal obstacles. The ACLU of Oregon immediately questioned the constitutionality of the measure, and the mayor urged to introduce it.
"Perhaps it is worse than the legal issues that it raises, that this regulation is little publicized as an emergency measure that will take effect immediately," said Mat dos Santos, the group's legal director. "This action by the mayor shows a lack of trust in the public and is an end to our usual democratic processes."
Portland has a long history of rough and occasionally violent street protests. It became famous as "Little Beirut" by staff of President George H.W. Bush.