Mom and Dad are mad

The Portland protesters were out again last night. And the cops handed their heads to them.

There were two groups – one that met up at Revolution Hall in Southeast, and another that met up in the North Park Blocks. At one point they converged downtown, but that was just briefly. There seemed to be maybe 300 people all told.

While the Rev Hall group left, the crowd from the Park Blocks, maybe 150 people, roved through downtown and broke the windows of businesses. Any store that wasn't boarded up seemed to be targeted. They burned an American flag in the middle of the street, lit some other bonfires, spray-painted slogans all over – the usual stuff.

Why? They were mad because F. Ted Wheeler won the mayoral election, but it was more than that. "Fuck capitalism," somebody shouted as they smashed the windows. "Fuck Trump and Biden," another said as they burned a Biden lawn sign.

It didn't go on too long before the "Unified Command" showed up. What a name. This is a combined force of state troopers, county sheriff deputies, Portland police, and National Guard soldiers. They're assembled on account of the election, but who knows, they may stay on if they "quell" things effectively. They "bull rushed" the crowd hard, arresting at least 11 people and brutally knocking and tackling a few to the pavement, as is their wont.

There were more cops and National Guardspeople than there were protesters. It was a massive presence, including a short parade of Jeeps and other military vehicles from the Guard, which I haven't seen on the streets at protests before.

In between "bull rushes," the crowd roved around downtown for what seemed like several hours, ending up at the Pioneer Courthouse. The federal riot cops were on guard there, and they took at least two more people into custody.

The police seemed to be tolerating less nonsense than usual, and they weren't hesitating to ponder any fine points of etiquette as they pushed, whacked, tackled, and carted off members of the black-clad anti-fascist set. They showed a lot of force. Tear gas was threatened, but I didn't see it used.

Here are a couple of tweeted videos to show you the general tenor of the police response:

If I had to guess, I'd say that the police are going to keep getting rougher, not gentler, now that the elections are over. Nobody in charge will be up for re-election any time soon, and so less restraint can be expected for a while.

* * * * *

One wild feature of the "Unified Command" is that they now post an hourly video announcement on Twitter during the riot. Here's a sample of the hourly clip:

But even crazier, they put out an end-of-night wrapup, at 2 in the morning, featuring an all-star lineup: County Sheriff Mike Reese, Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell, and State Police Superintendent Terri Davie. Must-see TV!

Two in the morning! Wow, what is that about? There's a new public relations angle here that I haven't noticed before.

* * * * *

As serious as the law enforcement face cards made it sound, at one point the protesters could be seen marching down the street while patrons of a nearby tavern sat coolly at their outdoor tables, enjoying lovely microbrews on a mild night and nonchalantly watching the action. Portland riots feature plenty of artisanal hopped beverages.

* * * * *

Do the Portland protests matter any more? Not as much as they used to. Back in July, at the height of the demonstrations, they captured the world's attention for a number of reasons. By far the most important was that they were standing up for Black people in the face of unspeakable police brutality, demonstrated so graphically by the murder of George Floyd.

But there were other aspects of the Portland protests that also made them significant. When the federal troops were called in to "guard" the federal courthouse, the scene suddenly became more about the would-be dictator in the White House. The arrival of the Trump troops turned a couple of hundred marchers into thousands, with spectators in the millions.

Portlanders also watched because the nightly unrest and clashes with police were affecting local politics. The mayor, who is also police commissioner, was up for re-election, as was an incumbent commissioner whose opponent took police union money for his campaign. In addition, there was a ballot measure pending that would completely revamp investigations and discipline when police officers engage in violence.

As of yesterday, that scenery has changed. The Black Lives Matter movement is still with us, but the rest of the interest factors are now on the wane. Trump seems to be on his way out. The lefty candidates in the City Council election lost. (I'm reminded of a wise man who once advised, "If you go carryin' pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow.") Yet the police reform ballot measure passed overwhelmingly. Thus, the voters have spoken, sometimes in agreement with the protesters, sometimes not. 

That's it for elections for a good long while. And so whatever happens on the streets now, it isn't going to matter in terms of any election. The political system has done its thing.

The activists will still march, of course, as is their right. Some of them want literal abolition of all police and prisons. Some want an end to capitalism. Some want anarchy. They all want an end to racism. They seem to think that the tens of thousands of people who stay home and don't join them just need to be awakened to the righteousness of their causes, and soon the throngs from the summer will rejoin them in marching and dancing. Eventually, Utopia will be achieved.

But clanking around in gas masks, late at night, sassing the cops and breaking stuff up isn't most Portlanders' bag. People here are pragmatic, by and large. They'll give you some of their time and attention, but only if it's going to make a difference.

What the protesters are engaging in now doesn't seem likely to get them where they want to go. And they're not even in agreement about where that is. They don't have leaders, no one's real name is ever mentioned, they won't let the media show their faces, and as a consequence, they present no one for anyone else to bargain with. They're just a constant toothache for the establishment, and apparently content to remain as that.

No criticism intended, but the question becomes why anyone outside the drum circle should care about a group of that nature. Of course, one thing that everyone should watch out for is police brutality in handling the protests. But the volunteer lawyers who march with the protesters can keep an eye on that just fine. As for destroying capitalism, abolishing prisons, causing anarchy, Portlanders aren't down with the program.

Black lives matter. A lot of these other extreme agendas don't.