Portland cops at their worst at Laurelhurst protest
This week's Saturday night edition of The Portland Protests saw demonstrators and the local police back at it. In a nasty incident at the county sheriff's office at 47th and East Burnside, the local cops behaved quite badly.
So ends a period of many nights in which the Portland police wisely lay low, allowing the protesters to mix it up with the federal paramilitary that was occupying the city. Last night, the marchers dared to go the local cops' house, and the police force lost its cool almost immediately.
The story started at Laurelhurst Park, where in the early evening a group, reported to be about 200 people, assembled to protest racial injustice and police brutality. After discussion and a vote – classic Portlandia – the group decided to march to the nearby sheriff's office, which used to be the Portland police southeast precinct and apparently is still used in part by the city cops.
There the marchers were met by helmeted, armed officers – I think they were sheriff's deputies – who lined up in front of the building. The usual taunting ensued. Somebody in the crowd was hauling a mattress, and that's a real trigger for the cops, apparently. I guess it is because some protesters are known to set them on fire.
Although the freelance journalists present say they didn't see anything of the sort, before long the Portland police tweeted that someone had thrown bottles and pointed lasers at the officers. That set off a completely overblown, but not unfamiliar, police response.
A couple of vans full of Portland police showed up in riot gear. The Orwellian sound car also rolled in, with the DJ From Hell starting his high-decibel satanic mantras. "This is an unlawful assembly! Leave the area now. Move west on Burnside." Over and over. Whatever the legal significance of these announcements may be, their actual message is, "We're coming out there to kick your ass now, and we don't have to follow any rules any more." Nobody ever does what the DJ From Hell tells them to do. The whole thing is creepy.
Anyway, out marched several dozen Portland cops brandishing their batons and sub-machine guns. Nobody was throwing anything at this point; the protesters were standing in the intersection. But the police did their "bull rush" routine, in which they run right at the crowd, and anyone who can't get out of their way fast enough gets thrown to the ground, hit with batons, sprayed with pepper spray, or all of the above. Sometimes even people on the sidewalks get whacked. It doesn't matter if some medical condition or injury prevents you from running. If you don't move fast enough, you get hit.
If there really was someone throwing bottles, or shining lasers at police officer's eyes, do you think they were the ones who were beaten, maced, and thrown to the asphalt?
It gets worse. One person who identified herself as a member of the "press" had the tires on her car slashed (or shot out) and her rear windshield smashed as she was trying to drive away from the scene. Glass landed in her lap in the driver's seat.
She was livid. She said the cops did it. No other story would be believable. Especially since the police were heard taunting and mocking people they had just knocked to the ground.
The cops weren't satisfied to get the protesters away from the sheriff's office. They bull-rushed them all the way through the normally quiet Laurelhurst neighborhood, with Mr. DJ From Hell belting out his loud, apocalyptic warnings, until they were all the way south to Stark Street, or maybe it was even Belmont. Along the way, a few sympathetic residents of the neighborhood handed out bottled water and washed the mace out of demonstrators' eyes.
The police were obviously filming everyone assembled, and they scoffed at people's press credentials. On both counts, the freelance journalists kept saying the cops were violating recent court orders. Honestly, I don't think the Portland police listen to court orders, or any authority other than the police union. They kill unarmed, innocent people with impunity. Do you think they're afraid they're going to be punished over mere civil rights violations?
It isn't just last night, but I have come to the conclusion that as a group, the Portland police dislike free speech, especially when it is critical of them. And they are not just willing, but eager – eager! – to hurt people. They are damaged goods from a psychological standpoint, and the opposite of smart crowd control. It really is a shame that the politicians can't or won't bring them to heel.
Another close call at the courthouse
Meanwhile, Saturday night downtown seemed just like Friday night. A lot of racket at the Justice Center, a big crowd, but no violence, no cops. There was a smaller, peaceful NAACP event in Waterfront Park as well.
Except that toward the end of the evening, just before 2, someone set up the garbage pile we wrote about yesterday, in the same place, by the side door of the federal courthouse. And this time, they lit it on fire!
The flames got pretty big before some of the protesters put it out with water and their feet. No one admitted seeing who set the blaze. But whoever the fire guys are? They are real trouble.
Fortunately, the state police or whoever's inside the courthouse either didn't see the fire or didn't react to it. I can only imagine how brutal things would have gotten had the Portland police been there.
At about 1:00 in the morning, a couple of hundred protesters peeled off from the crowd at the courthouse and Justice Center to go on a march through downtown. They went west up Jefferson to the Cray-Cray Safeway, turned right on Tenth, and strolled all the way down into the Pearl District. There was a lot of chanting and bullhorn speeches. They were yelling that downtown residents should wake up and join them.
For a time it looked as though they were going to go back to the condo of the mayor, F. Ted Wheeler, but for some reason they decided against it. Go figure.