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Politics & Government

Oregon National Guard Will Protect State Capitol In Run-up To Biden Inauguration

Salem election protest OPB.jpg
Jonathan Levinson / OPB
Far-right groups gathered at the Oregon Capitol on Jan. 6, to protest Congress's certification of the presidential election.

The deployment comes as federal law enforcement authorities warn of possible armed protests in every state

Gov. Kate Brown is dispatching Oregon National Guard troops to the state Capitol in coming days, as officials brace for the possibility of armed protests in Salem.

With federal authorities warning demonstrations are planned throughout the country in the run-up to the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, the Oregon State Police announced Wednesday it had asked Brown for assistance.

The extent of the guard’s potential deployment is unclear, and OSP said in a statement it would not reveal where troops could be sent. The headline on a news release specifically mentioned the state Capitol.

“The recent events at our Nation’s Capitol building and at our own statehouse illustrate the need for law enforcement to be prepared and appropriately staffed for any large gatherings,” OSP Superintendent Terrie Davie said in the statement.

The announcement comes shortly after the FBI sent a memo to officials in every state, warning that sometimes-violent demonstrations that have occurred around the country could intensify.

“Armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols from 16 January through at least 20 January, and at the U.S. Capitol from 17 January through 20 January,” the memo read, according to the Associated Press.

In Oregon, repeated demonstrations by far-right groups in recent weeks have at times led to physical fights and chaos.

On Dec. 21, demonstrators gained access to the closed Capitol building when state Rep. Mike Nearman opened a side entrance. Members of the protest wound up scuffling with police inside the building, with one man allegedly using bear mace on officers. Some demonstrators later destroyed glass exterior doors and assaulted journalists.

The incident has led state police to provide lawmakers with increased safety trainings for the legislative session that begins Jan. 19, and to increase their presence in the Capitol.

Though Brown has not previously activated National Guard soldiers for Capitol security, troops have been placed on standby to address protests in Portland repeatedly this year, and wound up taking to the streets in the aftermath of the presidential election.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting