SALEM, OR (KPTV) – The city government of Salem has released a statement in response to Monday’s protest outside the Capitol building, in which several demonstrators were arrested.
On Tuesday morning, the City of Salem released the following, attributed to city officials:
“Our City is home to the State Capitol, the seat of government for Oregon. This makes us a host for many groups and activities in which people exercise their rights of free speech to be heard by those elected to serve, the Legislature, and the Governor. We take that responsibility – and public safety – seriously, regardless of the content of the speech or the ideology of the groups. When free speech crosses over to physical threats to elected officials, law enforcement, and residents, the City will act to protect public safety,” said Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett.
“Today’s use of force by individuals to stop the Legislature’s special session is appalling. I thank the Oregon State Police and Salem Police Department for their swift action. Our democratic process must be protected,” continued Mayor Bennett.
Mayor Bennett and Salem City Council President Chris Hoy added, “During recent protests, speech has occurred that is racist and offensive. We condemn and reject racist speech that spews hatred and vile. There is no place for hate in Salem, and the City will act to protect residents from actions that threaten their safety.”
The city’s statement comes a day after tension outside the Capitol building. Oregon lawmakers had gathered for their third special session during the COVID-19 pandemic. Monday’s session was held to debate an $800 million proposal by Gov. Kate Brown which would fund pandemic and wildfire relief.
While legislators convened inside, hundreds were outside on the Capitol mall to protest Oregon’s COVID-19 restrictions. Chants of “open up” were heard.
Throughout the day, some demonstrators forcefully entered the Capitol building, breaking its current protocol of not allowing public visitors.
An unlawful assembly was declared, and Oregon State Police arrested four protesters. OSP is also seeking a man who is believed to have attempted to enter the building Monday afternoon and may have attacked two reporters.
In its statement Tuesday, the City of Salem said it is “prepared for announced upcoming marches and demonstrations. The Salem Police Department will act to protect public safety and uphold the laws necessary to maintain order.”