Portland protesters quell themselves
Last night's Portland protests were like a church service compared to what went on for a couple of weeks before. The prospect that Trump's private army might be leaving town calmed everything down.
Except for a few clowns who tried to start a fire or two at the federal courthouse barricades, and except for a person or two hopping on the fence around the courthouse just for kicks, there was no violence, no apparent crime, and no property damage. The police and federal shock troops didn't show their faces at all. They didn't have to. When the fires were started, other demonstrators went over with water bottles and put them out.
Not that there wasn't a sizable crowd once again. One estimate said 1,000 people; that seemed right, from what I could see. They chanted, they sang, they held up signs, they drummed, they said nasty things about Trump, they cursed the federal troops, and they dissed the other powers that be. In short, they did all the things they've been doing during the "good" part of the protests night after night. But there wasn't much throwing stuff, maybe none. Only a few stupid fireworks. A little rattling of Fencie, but no one trying to knock it over or cut it apart. And so there was no need for cops. Things broke up by 1:30.
In fact, Fencie was no longer the center of attention. During what has typically been "dodgeball time," the crowd was circled around the middle of Third Avenue, where speakers addressed everyone through a bullhorn or two.
What changed the demonstrators' attitude? Well, for one thing, the place where all the violence has been happening had been changed a bit. The city had cleaned out the parks earlier in the day, and the feds had gotten rid of some of the graffiti and all the garbage in front of the courthouse. New floodlights had been installed on the courthouse facing Third, and they were switched on all evening; somehow all that light seemed to have a cooling effect.
But mostly the peace resulted from the likelihood of the end of the federal occupation. The feds were still in the courthouse, ready to gas everyone and shoot them in the face with "less lethal" ammunition, as they have consistently done since their arrival. But the protesters showed them pretty clearly last night that they, the stormtroopers, were the problem. Someone taped a sign on the ground in front of a door where the shock troops have been entering and exiting the courthouse. It said something like "Thanks for visiting. Now please go home." If so much as one of the federales had made an appearance, the end of the night would have been quite different.
A strangely soothing sight was the presence of Oregon state troopers around the courthouse during the day. They were probably inside all evening, too. In their familiar blue uniforms and wide-brimmed hats, they drew quite a contrast with the ridiculous camouflage combat fatigues of the Trump University ROTC.
Now, when you're doing 80 miles an hour on I-5, trying to roll a joint with one hand, an Oregon state trooper is the last person you want to see. But not at the courthouse yesterday. They seemed like the good guys. At least as long as the common enemy is here.
The Portland police did not appear at the demonstration, but they had been all over the parks during the day, before the speeches started. There were also a couple of trucks full of riot cops spotted rolling through close-in southeast early in the evening. They were ready to storm in if called upon, I'm sure. But there was no reason for them to get involved.
This is not to say the troubles in Portland are over. It's too early to name overall winners and losers (though we will definitely want to do that at the appropriate time). But last night was a sign that Portland may be entering a new, less dangerous, and more productive phase of the aftermath to the George Floyd murder.
Toward the end of the night, one of the speakers said he thought Governor Brown ought to put in an appearance at the protests. It's been a great couple of days for her, but that might be pressing her luck. We'll see.