Should Portland protesters go away now?
Last night's action at The Portland Protests was entirely peaceful. It was also the smallest it's been in about a month.
It was Sunday night. As I wrote last week, Sunday night is a chill-out-and-regroup time for most folks. So it's no surprise that the crowd downtown, which I believe was the only demonstration going on in the evening, was only a few hundred. One estimate said 400 people, but what I saw on the Twittertubes was less than that.
Not that there wasn't inspiration to be had. Someone was playing a recording of a speech by Martin Luther King Jr. And where the elk statue once stood (I hear it's safely in storage, by the way), a shrine had been set up to victims of police violence.
So now what? Do the demonstrations peter out?
That's what the editors of the Oregonian are urging. Yesterday, the daily newspaper (or whatever you want to call it these days) published a doozy of an editorial suggesting that now that the federal shock troops are gone, the protesters ought to stay home:
Protesters’ efforts as well as the restraint by police were the most hopeful sign in weeks to a city tired of the drama and national attention. But protesters can take other action as well, such as moving from nightly protests to volunteering for other initiatives, such as childcare or educational support to low-income and underserved children – a need that will only grow more dire with schools planning distance-learning instead of in-person classes this fall.
Did you hear that, comrades? Time to get off the streets and do some volunteer work with school children.
Do the Oregonian editorial board members ever read their own news? Do they have an archive, where they can look into the history of police misconduct in Portland? Do they have anybody on staff who can explain how every previous attempt at police reform has been shorted out by the police union? Were any of them around for "Don't Choke 'Em, Smoke 'Em"? Does the name Kendra James ring a bell? Jim-Jim Chasse? James Jahar Perez? Additional names available on request.
The Oregonian editors should put down their knitting for a minute and look out the window. Police reform in Portland is a steep uphill battle, and the cop union has the upper hand. The political figureheads are ineffective and wishy-washy. We go through police chiefs here at the rate of about one a year. We also go through police commissioners (mayors, that is) pretty fast. Mayors don't seem to make it to a second term any more, and even if the current mayor somehow survives the current protest season and gets himself re-elected, as of January 1 he may be the only one on the City Council who isn't in his or her rookie term. In fact, it's entirely possible that everyone on the council will be in their rookie term at that point.
The odds for reform (by whatever name) are not good in any event, but without constant pressure, it's a certainty that nothing is going to change. The young protesters, most of whom have never held a newspaper in their hands, appear to understand that fact better than the milquetoasts at the Oregonian do.
And besides, the premise of the editorial – that the feds are gone – is mistaken. The federal occupiers' rented minivans and SUVs were still seen parked on the downtown streets and in a downtown hotel parking lot yesterday. In the Sunday New York Times, a reporter noted that while the action is going down in front of the Justice Center and the federal courthouse, there are still Homeland Security troops lurking in the federal building up the street. And that infernal helicopter is still up there every night; just ask city residents trying to enjoy the evening in their backyards or on their balconies.
But even if the Trump circus leaves town, the advice for the protesters to find some nice volunteer work somewhere is utterly tone-deaf. Not unexpected from the Oregonian, but so wrong that it's sort of an achievement, even for them.