(Reuters) - Oregon Governor Kate Brown on Friday declared a state of emergency in Portland over the weekend due to risks of violence as thousands of members of what she called “white supremacist groups” such as the Proud Boys hold a rally.
Leaders of the self-described “Western chauvinist” Proud Boys called Saturday’s rally to “end domestic terrorism” after four months of near daily demonstrations against police violence and racism in Oregon’s largest city that have often ended in violence.
Many out-of-state demonstrators, some armed, were expected to attend the Proud Boys event in a park about six miles (9.7 km) north of downtown, state officials said, with organizers expecting a crowd of up to 20,000, according to local television station KGW8.
Police hope to keep right-wing groups apart from left-wing counter protesters set to gather in another park about 2 miles away.
“I am incredibly concerned about the increased risk of violence in Portland this weekend,” Brown told reporters.
Under her emergency declaration, state troopers and the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office will lead a law enforcement taskforce authorized to use “proportional force” including tear gas to keep the peace, said Oregon State Police Superintendent Travis Hampton.
Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio said his group did not intend to cause violence.
“We will be peaceful unless provoked. I encourage people to protest us,” Tarrio wrote on Twitter on Thursday. “What we won’t condone or tolerate is violence towards attendees.”
The men-only Proud Boys group describes itself as a fraternal organization that is “anti-racism” and “anti-political correctness.”
Civil rights group The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) classifies the Proud Boys as a hate group, citing its members’ anti-Muslim and misogynist rhetoric.
“Saturday’s rally is the latest in a long series of sustained provocations that the Proud Boys have held in Portland,” SPLC research analyst Cassie Miller said in a statement on Friday.
President Donald Trump, who has made law and order a principal theme of his bid for re-election on Nov. 3, has singled out Portland as one of several Democratic-led cities he calls “anarchist jurisdictions.”
His Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, says Trump’s rhetoric is stoking the violence.
Reporting By Andrew Hay; Editing by Daniel Wallis
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