PORTLAND, Ore. — After a night of mostly peaceful protests Monday night, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said he won't extend the citywide curfew for Tuesday.
Wheeler spoke to the media Tuesday morning about the ongoing protests in Portland. He was joined by Portland Police Bureau Chief Jami Resch.
Wheeler said Monday night's protests marked a significant shift in the tone of the demonstrations.
"What we're witnessing is a truly extraordinary moment in our country. People uniting to support our black community," Wheeler said. "Yes again, there were a limited few who stayed behind to attempt to wreak havoc, but they were encouraged by demonstrators to stop taking away from their message. Demonstrators set the tone for peace and non-violence.
"That is why tonight, I am not extending the curfew," Wheeler said.
During Tuesday's press conference, Wheeler said Oregon Gov. Kate Brown mischaracterized the reason he and other Portland leaders asked for the National Guard to be deployed.
"I was alarmed last night to see the governor's mischaracterization of the need for the National Guard. They were requested by me and by the Bureau to protect buildings, not on front lines. That was never the case," Wheeler said.
"The National Guard was never requested for purpose of direct confrontation with demonstrators. I will always stand up for justice. I will always support the public's safety. That's my duty, obligation and my personal values," the mayor said.
During Monday's press conference, Wheeler said the National Guard should be used only to protect facilities if deployed.
"If the National Guard is deployed, they'd protect facilities," Wheeler said. "Crowd control and policing will be left to law enforcement who are trained for that."
When the governor announced the deployment of the National Guard later Monday, she said Wheeler had asked her to deploy the National Guard "and put them in direct confrontation with protesters."
"Mayor Wheeler asked me over the weekend to mobilize the National Guard and put them in direct confrontation with protesters. This was not the first time the mayor has asked to mobilize the National Guard and not the first time i have declined," Brown said.
Brown said she would deploy the National Guard but in "a support function role only."
"They will not be on the front lines, making arrests or doing crowd control. They will be acting as support personnel, behind the scenes only," she said.
In a follow-up question, Wheeler said he thinks Gov. Brown has done a good job in a difficult situation but he said in times like this, facts matter.
"I think the governor has done a really fine job under these circumstances. But it's a fragile time. And on sensitive issues, we have to gets facts straight. My concern is there's a danger in mischaracterization, so it's important to get facts straight," Wheeler said.
Resch also said she never asked for the National Guard to assist on the front lines.
"I at no time, asked for the National Guard to come down here and back up police. I did ask for them to secure buildings. We used a combination of OSP troopers and guards to secure [the Multnomah County] Justice Center. I don't think they were visible but that's what they did," she said.
Wheeler also spoke about what needs to happen next once the protests have ended.
"I don't see how we don't move forward from these large demonstrations to, 'OK, we hear you, what concrete things can we do next?'" he said. "While I'm out in the community, I need to be out in the community more visibly most of the time. I need to find every opportunity to connect with, meet and hear stories of those individuals. Fewer forums where I do all the talking, and I just want to listen.
"Here I am in the middle of a global pandemic and I am feeling this spark of incredible optimism and we're at a tipping point toward something transformative and positive," Wheeler said.
Monday night marked the fourth day of protests in Portland over the killing of George Floyd, the Minnesota black man who died in police custody after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
A group of thousands of demonstrators peacefully protested for hours Monday night. After that group disbanded on their own accord for the night, a clash between police and a separate, smaller group of about 100 people took place in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Police say they arrested at least a dozen people and seized two firearms.
"Thousands of demonstrators participated in an extensive march without engaging in violence or destructive behavior," Resch tweeted early Tuesday morning. "Thank you for keeping this event peaceful. Your efforts to police the event yourselves created a safer environment for all.
"We will continue to arrest and hold responsible those who engage in acts of violence directed at the police, community members, or who commit other criminal acts," Resch said.
During Tuesday's press conference, Resch reiterated that police will support the right to protest.
"We had a majority peaceful evening [Monday] but we had 100 or so people who caused trouble. We have to protect that essential building down there [the Multnomah County Justice Center]. Self-policing is what police are hopeful for. We 100% support your right to come down here," she said.
For the second straight night, Resch met with community and protest leaders for "an open, honest discussion."
"I met with three people who are peaceful group leaders. They requested to meet with me and we met at Central Precinct. Sometimes coming in here can be very intimidating. We sat down and had an open, honest discussion. We came to a mutual understanding. We were looking for peace, forward movement. They were supportive of the actions we do honorably. Our community is supportive when we do the right thing."