By HEATHER ROBERTS
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
Local, state and federal law enforcement continue to plan for potential demonstrations and civil unrest this weekend at Oregon’s state Capitol.
Central Oregon lawmakers are concerned about the risk of violence right outside their offices.
“If they want to Constitutionally, peacefully protest, feel free to do that,” said Sen. Tim Knopp (R-Bend). “But, once it turns violent in any way, that is not constitutionally protected speech, and you should expect to be arrested.”
Knopp is the most senior member of the Central Oregon Legislative delegation.
Despite observing many protests on the steps of the Capitol through the years, he says rumors of unrest connected to last week’s D.C riot brings a heightened sense of security.
“I’m definitely concerned for our law enforcement officers, and for those who need to protect this building,” he said. “I think they’ve done a great job in protecting us and I know they will continue to do that. There’s definitely, I think, cause for concern for a lot of people.”
Knopp says protesters are upset about a number of things, but they’ve galvanized around a mistaken belief the election was stolen from President Trump.
“In every election there is some amount of voter fraud. The question is, ‘is it significant and is it coordinated; is it pervasive and did it cost somebody the election?’ And, we just haven’t seen in any of the court cases, to date, the evidence that it meets that higher standard of costing someone the election,” he said. “Unfortunately, Facebook posts and things like that don’t qualify as evidence.”
Rep. Jack Zika (R-Redmond) says the motive behind radical behavior is irrelevant.
“I don’t want violence and I don’t think that there should be violence,” he said. “There’s other ways they can protest and demonstrate.”
Through an FBI command post in Oregon, authorities will coordinate special agents, bomb techs, tactical teams and others as they assess potential threats.
Salem Police expect the protest to start Saturday morning and could continue around the country through Inauguration Day.
Oregon House and Senate leaders postponed the start of the Legislative session, to keep staff out of the Capitol until after January 20th.
Instead of beginning January 19th, the 2021 session will now start January 21st.
Rep. Jason Kropf (D-Bend), sworn in this week, never imagined he’d be discussing possible insurrection.
“I’ve always viewed both the federal capitol and state capitol in sort of this aspirational light, right? Think about the state Capitol: people come from all four corners of the state to do the business of the people; to try to make an impact on people’s lives and make this state better and move this state forward,” he said. “And, to think about violence in that building and that building sort of under attack is shocking and disheartening.”
But he remains optimistic.
“I don’t believe that’s us. I don’t believe that’s Oregon,” he said. “But I also believe we’re stronger than that, and I believe we are going to get through this and we’re not going to stand for this.”
Central Oregon Daily will be in Salem providing updates on events at the Capitol this weekend.