Danger increasing at Portland protests
Last night's edition of The Portland Protests was one of the scariest since the show started more than two months ago. At one point during the night, a pickup truck driven by an unsympathetic neighbor sped through the protest area, dragging a motorcycle along the ground under its front bumper. A little later, an argument between protesters and another man ended with four gunshots being fired into the air. No one was hurt in either incident, but it's getting pretty dicey out there.
The scene was the police union office on North Lombard Street. Around nightfall, a group of maybe 200 protesters had marched over from Peninsula Park for a demonstration against racial injustice and police brutality. The place was boarded up after previous protests. Immediately, the protesters wrote graffiti all over the boards, and they couldn't resist setting the contents of a nearby dumpster on fire. Always with the fires.
The crowd had a street blocked off – I think it was Lombard – and the fellow in the truck, who apparently lives nearby, must have wanted to get through. At one point, the protesters did let a big tractor-trailer rig pass because the driver couldn't turn it around. But with the guy in the pickup, the demonstrators had a difference of opinion. What happened next was not clear. Someone said the guy's tires were slashed, someone said he brandished a gun, but what the videos clearly showed was him gunning the truck through the barricade, with a motorcycle wedged under the front of the truck, sparks flying everywhere, and protesters hustling to get out of the way. They got his license number, and the police apparently paid him a visit at his house, but I don't think he was arrested.
After that, things settled down, relatively speaking, for a while. But the behavior of the protesters was getting rowdier as time wore on, and eventually the police DJ From Hell showed up in his sound car to warn everybody not to try to break into the building. He also gave some sort of absurd lecture about his interpretation of the court orders the police are currently operating under, but that seemed to be lost on everybody there. (ACLU legal observers were among those subjected to his high-decibel pedagogy.)
I believe it was at this point in the sequence that the usual riot vans of Portland police showed up and conducted their first of several "bull rushes" for the evening. But they did not seem to be around a short while later when another beef between protesters and a different non-protester erupted in the parking lot of the nearby 7-Eleven. Outnumbered, the outsider reportedly went back to his car, said to be a black, older-model BMW with no license plates, and pulled out a handgun. Those present said he fired four shots into the air, got back into the car, and drove off. No one was hit.
The civilian menacing of the North Portland protesters comes just a day after a stabbing in Lownsdale Square Park. Video of the aftermath of that incident, which took place in the early evening Monday, showed that a protester had been slashed in the chest with a knife by a person who did not look like a protester. And that night, the state troopers arrested a 15-year-old for brandishing a pellet gun that looked like a real handgun at the protest in Lownsdale.
It's a dangerous time out there on the nightly picket lines. Heck, it's a dangerous time everywhere in Portland right now. On the news last night, they said there were 15 homicides in the city in July. The police chief and the federal occupiers say it's because the cops are too busy with the protests. That's a convenient explanation. Usually, when killings get out of hand, it has something to do with the overall quality of the city's public safety efforts.
Anyway, back at the police union office last night, the juvenile antics on both sides continued. The cops repeated their bull-rush routine, pepper sprayed some folks, used some smoke bombs, and made a couple of arrests. The protesters seemed like the bigger jackasses, though, insisting on breaking into the building and burning a police union banner in the street. Honestly, this accomplishes what?
The police chased everyone again, and maybe another round after that, and the whole circus went on past 3:00. There was an ambulance on the scene toward the end; reports were that a protester's back was injured while he was being arrested.
The official police version is available for your reading pleasure here.
Meanwhile, downtown, some protesters were around, occupying the usual stretch of Third Avenue, but there was no Twitter feed that I saw, and the police said there was no action of interest.
Speaking of downtown, yesterday "Hanging" Chad Wolf and his federal Homeland Security heavies published this downright inflammatory and combative press release saying, in effect, Hey, up yours, Oregon and Portland, we're still here, and if you want a piece of us, bring it on. It's clear that the federal shock troops are still with us in sizable numbers, and they're not exactly here to keep the peace. Quite the opposite – they're cruising for bruising.
Myth: State and local police are replacing federal officers as DHS forces are standing down and withdrawing.FACTS: There has been no reduction in federal presence; federal law enforcement officers remain in Portland at augmented levels. Reports and implications to the contrary are irresponsible and dishonest. DHS officers are working with a robust contingent of Oregon State Police (OSP) officers to secure the courthouse. OSP has been policing the property outside the fencing surrounding federal properties and has partnered with federal officers behind the fencing.As Acting Secretary Wolf said upon announcing the partnership in operations, the increased federal presence in Portland will remain until the Department is certain that federal property is safe and a change in posture will not hinder DHS’s Congressionally mandated duty to protect it. While the violence in Portland is much improved, the situation remains dynamic and volatile, with acts of violence still ongoing, and no determination of timetables for reduction of protective forces has yet been made....
Myth: Portland’s downward trend in violence is a result of OSP being more effective than DHS.FACTS: Portland’s current downward trend in riot activity is a direct result of long-awaited coordination between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies that DHS demanded to see on the ground for weeks. Every major American city regularly coordinates with DHS law enforcement to maintain law and order—particularly around federal properties entrusted to DHS for protection. For nearly two months, DHS demanded cooperation with state and local law enforcement in Portland. It wasn’t until DHS officers suffered more than 240 injuries that Oregon’s Governor finally agreed to do her job.For those several long weeks as state and local officials put politics ahead of public safety, rioters knew that they could attack federal property and the officers defending it and then flee from the federal area of operations without any consequences from state or local law enforcement. Now that state and local leaders have finally agreed to step up and do their job, would-be rioters face the kind of coordinated enforcement response they should have been in place all along.
I don't know what America did to deserve these people. Dear Lord, whatever it was, I'm so sorry.
Another story, which appeared yesterday in the Mercury, is worth a read. The police and federal troops have been throwing around expired lots of tear gas, which means that no one really knows exactly what substances have been inflicted on protesters and protest neighbors.
And a final dark note for this roundup: The members of the group "OHSU for BLM" say they have been informed by their employer, Oregon Health and Sciences University, that they are no longer to use "OHSU" in their name. The suits running the show on Pill Hill – wow, what a bunch.
Programming alert: I may need to take a break from daily protest coverage pretty soon. There are other things I would like to pay attention to, and write about. This blog is not intended to be dedicated exclusively to the Portland protests. Please be sure to check Twitter for the latest. Search for #PortlandProtest or #PDXProtest.