50 Portland Police Officers to Be Deputized as Federal Law Enforcement Ahead of Proud Boys Rally

About 50 Portland, Oregon, police officers will be deputized as federal marshals ahead of Saturday's Proud Boys rally, enabling federal prosecutors to potentially bring federal charges upon those arrested.

Officers assigned to the specialized crowd control teams in the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) will be deputized early Saturday morning, Oregon State Police (OSP) Supt. Travis Hampton told The Oregonian/OregonLive. Governor Kate Brown tapped Hampton to lead police response with Multonmah County Sheriff Mike Reese under an emergency executive order, OregonLive reported.

Hampton asked the U.S. Marshals Service to grant the officers in the special squad federal powers. "Portland officers have been serving on the front lines of nightly protests for months, sustaining injuries and encountering unspeakable violence," he said. "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."

Members of the OSP's crowd control squad were deputized as federal officers earlier this summer in the wake of ongoing nightly protests in downtown Portland, according to OregonLive.

Newsweek contacted the PPB for comment, but did not hear back in time for publication.

With Brown's executive order giving control of public safety to Hampton and Reese for the weekend, police officers will be allowed to use tear gas—a crowd control measure that Mayor Ted Wheeler had previously prohibited, according to The Guardian.

And while deputized PPB officers and OSP troopers will continue to make arrests on state charges, the cases are now sent to the U.S. Attorney's Office where federal prosecutors will determine with officers whether any of the cases warrant federal charges, OregonLive reported.

Examples of these charges could include assault on a federal officer, which might stem from protesters throwing fireworks, rocks, bottles or other objects at them, according to OregonLive. Federal offenses typically carry harsher sentences than state charges.

"I want violent individuals thinking about the enhanced penalties they may face if they harm a Portland Police Bureau officer," Hampton told The Oregonian/OregonLive.

The deputizing of officers as special deputy U.S. Marshals lasts for one year, but it is unclear whether that power will be terminated after this weekend, according to OregonLive.

Portland Police at Rally
Federal officers disperse a crowd during a protest at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility on September 18, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. About 50 Portland police officers will be deputized as federal marshals ahead of a Proud Boys rally on September 26, enabling federal prosecutors to potentially bring federal charges upon those arrested. Nathan Howard/Getty

The rallies are set to begin at noon Saturday in North Portland. The Proud Boys, a self-described group of "western chauvinists" created in the midst of the 2016 presidential election, is a Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)-designed hate group.

The group's leaders deny any connection to the "alt-right" or white supremacist ideology, insisting instead that they are a fraternal group spreading an "anti-political correctness" and "anti-white guilt" agenda, according to the SPLC. Their actions, however, suggest otherwise.

Proud Boys have appeared at extremist gatherings like the 2017 "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville and have a documented history of spouting racist, misogynistic, anti-semitic and anti-Islam messaging. Violence is firmly entrenched in Proud Boy dogma, according to the SPLC.

Enrique Tarrio, the group's leader, told The New York Times that he welcomed Portland's expanded law enforcement presence ahead of Saturday's rally. Between 200 and 300 Proud Boys were expected in the city for the event, and Tarrio expected several hundreds of others to participate as well, he said.

Tarrio has said that anyone planning to commit violence should stay away from the rally, but he did acknowledge that the environment he was creating would likely attract people looking for violence.

"I'd be stupid to say that I don't expect someone to come in with some type of nefarious motives," he told the Times. "The moment that we see it, we will say something. We will be pointing that out to the authorities."

The Proud Boys described Saturday's rally as a free speech event to support President Donald Trump and the police, restore law and order, and condemn anti-fascists, "domestic terrorism" and "violent gangs of rioting felons," The Guardian reported. Counter-demonstrators have organized several rallies in response.

Brown addressed clashes between members of the far left and far right, several of which have resulted in death. "The Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer groups have come time and time again looking for a fight, and the results are always tragic. Let me be perfectly clear, we will not tolerate any type of violence this weekend," she said Friday. "Left, right or center, violence is never a path towards meaningful change."