Media Room


Governor Kate Brown
Press Conference - Racial Justice​
June 1, 2020

Good afternoon and thank you for being here today. I want to thank my colleagues for joining me here this afternoon in what is a very difficult time for our state and the nation.

Millions of people have raised their voices across the country over the weekend in a collective cry of anguish and anger. 

The killing of George Floyd is a stain on this country. 

He was a 46-year-old father who had been working as a security guard for a restaurant for several years. He had recently lost his job during the pandemic. And now he’s lost his life. 

He was not alone.

Breonna Taylor was a 26-year-old emergency room technician in Kentucky.

Philando Castile was a 32-year-old school employee in Minnesota.

Alton Sterling was 37 years old when he was killed in Louisiana. 

I don’t need to go on. A single senseless death is one too many.

To everyone who is hurting right now, I want to say I see you. I hear you. I stand with you. And I add my voice to yours. 

Years and years of failure to reform police practices. Years of failure to hold police officers accountable. Years of failure to bring real reforms to our criminal justice system, which incarcerates Black Americans at five times the rate of white Americans. 

I count myself as one of the many white politicians whose good intentions haven’t done enough to tackle the scourge of systemic racism. 

Yes, we passed juvenile justice reforms last year.  But it took us too many years to get this done. We must go further. 

Yes, we have begun justice reinvestment to reduce harsh prison sentences and reinvest the savings in crime prevention and drug treatment. But we are only scratching the surface. 

We sit here today amidst a global pandemic that has sickened and killed Black, Latinx, Pacific Islander, and other communities of color at disproportionate rates.  

Racism and racial disparities impact every part of our culture and our economy. And the pandemic has further exacerbated these disparities. 
People of color are less likely to have the income or savings that make it easy to stay home from work. 
People of color are more likely to work on frontline jobs during the pandemic - hospitals, agriculture and food processing, grocery stores, home health care. 
People of color are less likely to have access to high quality health care coverage.
The list goes on and on. 

As we work to reopen the economy and build a safe and strong Oregon, I am committed to putting our marginalized communities at the forefront of our recovery plan. You will see more of this in the days and weeks to come.

Words are not enough. We need action. Collective action.

Now before I turn the microphone over to my colleagues, let me say a few words about the dynamics of the protests, particularly in Portland.

On Friday, thousands of people gathered at several peaceful protests across the city. This was a cry for action. A call for reform. A community in mourning. Then very late at night, much smaller groups decided to break windows and damage property.

Senseless violence does not honor George Floyd’s death or create accountability. Only the hard work of racial justice will.

On Saturday night there were more protests and some additional property destruction. And the city instituted a curfew. 

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. 

Last night, rather than putting soldiers on the streets of Portland, I directed the Oregon State Police to deploy additional officers to support Portland Police and the Sheriff’s department. We took these state police from other communities and sent them to Portland to assist the city and the Sheriff’s office.

We also had 50 National Guard members on standby nearby and ready to deploy within minutes in the event local law enforcement found themselves overwhelmed. Last night, they were not requested.

I want to thank Superintendent Hampton and the State Police for their dedication, their flexibility, and their willingness to answer the call of service.
This morning the Mayor renewed his request for National Guard members. In other cities across Oregon, local Mayors have very collaborative relationships and are able to share law enforcement personnel between cities and counties. 

This used to be the case in Portland. I encourage the Mayor to rebuild these collaborative law enforcement agreements with neighboring counties.

Now, after three nights of protests, local law enforcement personnel in Portland are in need of assistance. 

After consulting with Oregon State Police Superintendent Travis Hampton, I’m sending 100 state police from around the state -- at state expense -- to support the Portland Police Bureau.

I have also decided to ​call in 50 Oregon National Guard members to provide 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.

And here’s why: Our goal - and the goal of the overwhelming number of protestors - should be to reduce violence. You don’t diffuse violence by putting soldiers on our streets.

Having soldiers on the street across America is exactly what President Trump wants. He made that very clear on a call this morning with Governors. Trump wants Governors to deploy the National Guard as a show of force to intimidate the public. 

I want to ensure that the public can safely raise their voices in this much-needed call for reform.

Our National Guard members are Oregonians taking time away from their families to serve their fellow Oregonians.  They are volunteers.

They will be on hand to provide support to local officials -- comfort and care for the injured, processing arrests, and directing traffic -- much as they do when they are asked to respond to wildfires. I’m incredibly grateful for their service.

I will turn it over to Commissioner Hardesty.