Portland, OR, has seen its fair share of problems and violence stemming from groups such as Antifa, bent on destruction and chaos and harassing anyone not sharing its views. Since the senseless murder of George Floyd, the city has come under even more mayhem as protesters and rioters have been taking over the streets for more than six weeks, with no end in sight. Several times police have had to declare the demonstrations to be riots, and dozens of participants have been arrested, some even incurring federal charges. Is Portland soon to have territory taken over by rioters and perhaps turned into another CHOP zone, like the one in Seattle, WA?
At this point, so many individuals are involved in the destruction it’s difficult to know to which groups they belong, if any. Antifa is onsite as well as Black Lives Matter, but there are others, whom police identify as “agitators,” whose only ostensible purpose is to cause trouble and destroy property. Just as Seattle’s lawmakers did, Portland officials have reduced local law enforcement’s ability to handle the mobs, which sparked President Donald Trump’s interest enough to send in federal troops to help control the situation and protect federal buildings and monuments.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Oregon Governor Kate Brown – both, unsurprisingly, Democrats – did not learn from Seattle Democratic Mayor Jenny Durkan’s experience the dangers of crippling the police and ordering them to stand down to appease the crowds. Police estimate that already there has been about $23 million in damages to Portland businesses and federal buildings. Brown signed legislation earlier this month to ban the use of tear gas except in case of a riot. Since then, police have had to declare several protests as riots, after violence and destruction mounted.
The main target of attack seems to be Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse. On July 4, demonstrators shot commercial-grade fireworks at the Justice Center and the federal courthouse. While law enforcement tried to manage the crowd, the protesters threw mortars, M-80s, and bricks at them and shone lasers into officers’ eyes until they were forced to use tear gas to protect themselves and vulnerable civilians.
A Portland police press release said, “Several Officers sustained injuries throughout the night, mostly due to mortars and fireworks thrown at them by members of the crowd, which exploded on or near them.”
Reporter Andy Ngo has been covering the protests, which he described as an angry mob of Antifa and BLM rioters:
An angry mob of antifa and BLM rioters stand off with federal police in front of the Portland federal courthouse. The entire building has been boarding up but militants have been trying to break inside for many days. Video by @livesmattershow: pic.twitter.com/X2KeSyRyV3
— Andy Ngô 🏳️🌈 (@MrAndyNgo) July 12, 2020
Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell said, “The violence we have witnessed is contrary to the values of our City and the thousands who are hoping to move forward with systemic change. Our community deserves better than nightly criminal activity that destroys the value and fabric of our community.”
But it is difficult, if not impossible, for law enforcement to contain the mobs with their hands tied behind their backs and blindfolds wrapped around their heads. Last month, the city council approved moving more than $15 million from the Police Bureau to support other programs and disbanded police units that investigate gun violence, work in schools, and patrol public transit systems.
The mayor is not helping matters, either, tweeting out messages in support of the protests. Wheeler said in a tweet:
“We must acknowledge that our system of white supremacy lays the foundation for white nationalism to exist. This is real. We must support Black Portlanders for whom this is familiar and terrifying, and we must continue the work of reform.”
This narrative and rhetoric coupled with defunding and handicapping local law enforcement definitely didn’t help the officer who was hit in the head and shoulder with a sledgehammer while trying to defend the federal courthouse from rioters and looters. It was so bad, the president sent in federal troops to assist local police. “It was out of control, the locals couldn’t handle it, and you people are handling it very nicely,” Trump said to Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf during a military briefing in Florida. Wolf agreed the situation was tense:
“I think what we see in Portland is really a smaller example of what we see around the country regarding some of the civil unrest and the attacks on law enforcement. We’ve had to send in additional individuals. We’re making arrests. But there has been violence, there’s been assaults on federal law enforcement officers. And it really just shouldn’t occur. We should have had more support of the local police there.”
Earlier this month, the Portland Police Union voted “no confidence” in the city council and asked why the commissioners were not condemning the violence and structure damage caused by the demonstrators.
Daryl Turner, the Portland Police Union president, said “a small number of people have hijacked” the cause and “used the cover of peaceful protests to burn and loot our City.” He created a plan, “Fund police reform,” which would provide more crisis management teams and social workers as well as a return to community-based policing, in which officers get to know the people in neighborhoods they serve. Turner summed up the situation:
“Our officers have endured weeks of rocks, bricks, bottles, mortars, and other objects hurled at them with hate. Enough. The people who put on a badge and uniform every day are human beings.
“If City Council won’t stand up for Portland, we will.”
Read more from Kelli Ballard.