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.


  1. So what concrete steps can we take to lessen the likelihood
    of these incidents happening in the future? I think the protests were
    a real win in planting the notion in a police officer's head that
    things have changed - if you do kill an unarmed Black man or woman,
    the same old phony excuses won't fly and there will be hell to pay.
    We could also do more to stop the phenomenon known as Driving While
    Black. If a police officer pulls over a Black driver, he or she
    better have video proof of why. The car Kendra James was riding in
    was ostensibly pulled over because the driver rolled through a stop
    sign. If that even happened, it's thin. Most likely the race of the
    people in the car was noted and that is why they were stopped.
    Remember Philandro Castile, killed by police in Minneapolis
    back in 2016? He had a woman and little girl in the car with him. The
    reason he was pulled over - according to the police - was that he
    made an illegal lane change. It sounded like bullshit at the time
    especially when it turned out that in the previous few years he had
    been pulled over by police 52 times. 52 times!
    Finally we have to add an accountability factor where
    police pay for their crimes. That's been covered at length but here's
    one aspect of it that I haven't seen: Have you noticed how many of
    these cases are going along in a routine detention when suddenly the
    Black person makes a break for it? That just happened in the Wendy's
    drive through in Atlanta, and it appears to have happened with Kendra
    James. It comes down to different expectations of what could occur
    next. When I was much younger I wrote freelance comedy for J.J.
    Walker. As a white kid growing up in a jet set type existence, it was
    very revealing for me. J.J. would call me from out on the road and
    we'd watch a half of football together while discussing all these
    issues. Frankly, it was a real education. One morning I sat down to
    write comedy and I noticed when you say "a guy was walking down the
    street in America" it means one thing. When you say, "A Black man was
    walking down the street in America" it comes with the implication
    that something bad is about to happen. That's a harsh reality, folks.
    When you say "a guy was detained by police" there is much more of a
    feeling that things will go by the book. But when you say, "A Black
    man was detained by police" it comes with an implication that he
    might die. That's a real problem because you can see on the videos
    where they are trying to remain calm, but suddenly they panic and
    flee. It's very hard to allow yourself to be detained peacefully when
    you're thinking - because of your background - that the police might
    be about to kill you. If we could just get more accountability,
    someday down the road that sense of panic wouldn't be there as much.
    Then so many of these incidents wouldn't even have to begin. Let's
    hope we get there soon.

  2. We should take police out of the traffic enforcement business entirely, 100%.

    Berkeley is leading the way.

    1. Sorry, clicked too fast before posting last link:


Post a Comment

The platform used for this blog is awfully wonky when it comes to comments. It may work for you, it may not. It's a Google thing, and beyond my control. Apologies if you can't get through. You can email me a comment at, and if it's appropriate, I can post it here for you.