Beginning in May of 2020, the city of Salem became a highpoint for constitutionally protected activities — at the state capitol, our downtown streets and in our larger parks, namely Riverfront, Pringle and Bush's Pasture.
The right to engage in peaceful protest is a cornerstone of American democracy. And as such, the Salem Police Department strives to balance the sometimes-competing interests of community safety and individuals' rights under the US Constitution. To that end, the Salem Police Department implements a multi-faceted approach in line with national best practices in policing to protect public safety and democratic freedoms.
The Salem Police Department's preparations for these types of events includes working with our local and regional partners, such as the Oregon State Police (OSP) and the Marion County Sheriff's Office, to ensure resources are available including patrol, crowd management and other special teams to monitor and manage the protests as they unfold. It is important to note that when an event occurs on the capitol grounds, OSP has jurisdiction and enforcement responsibility.
Another aspect of our preparations is communication. If we believe there is potential for a public safety impact to an area of the city, a community message is published. The police department also attempts to reach out and communicate with protest organizers. Conversations with organizers about safe and lawful protests, and the actions which could result in police enforcement or intervention, are an important component to maintaining order and safety for everyone. Although it is not always possible, we remain open to the opportunity for communication with event organizers.
Goals and Objectives
We also recognize the concerns from our residents. When opposing groups come into contact, the risk of violence increases as evidenced in previous protests. Due to past unacceptable and unlawful actions, the Salem Police Department has set the following objectives and goals for its response to any upcoming protests.
- Prevent or stop violence and property damage and deny the unlawful occupation of public or private buildings, while respecting individuals' right to free speech and assembly.
- Keep opposing groups from converging in order to prevent violence and best ensure community safety.
- Take enforcement action to address minor offenses when reasonable and appropriate.
- Ensure follow-up investigation of criminal behavior that was not immediately addressed.
These goals and objectives are based solely upon the neutral interests of overall public safety, regardless of the view held or expressed by any particular group of protestors. Our expectation for every protest event is that participants assemble peacefully, and that our community is not negatively impacted.
For a list of commonly asked questions about protests, rallies and assemblies in the city of Salem and police response to such activities, visit our FAQ page.
Visit the New York University School of Law Policing Project to learn more about their work to promote public safety through transparency, equity and democratic engagement.