Spotlight's on

Before turning in last night, and after coaxing a cat back into the house after she wandered out a window and onto the roof, I noticed that the New York Times had an article in it today about the situation here in Portland. I was too beat to blog about it then, but if you haven't seen it, it's here.

The article, which I can't seem to find in my hard copy of the national edition, is written by Kirk Johnson, the Times reporter stationed in Seattle, with co-author credit to Sergio Olmos, a Portland freelance writer well connected on the left. 

It's a curious piece, in that it tries to weave several disconnected Portland threads into something coherent: the George Floyd protests, the anarchist riots, the gang wars, and the City Council decision to try out the new "street response" unit on a small scale before implementing it citywide. To many of us who live here, the connections seem pretty strained. And the Times didn't try too hard to hear from all sides. It wound up with a slightly Hardesty-esque slant on things.

Anyway, there are a few passages that resonated with me:

A hardened core of street activists, many of them professing opposition to authority in general, has dug in and shows no signs of going away. (Portland’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, has asked people to stop calling them protesters, but rather what they call themselves: anarchists.) Their numbers are now down to perhaps 25 to 75 on any given night, compared with hundreds in late 2020 and the many thousands who marched last summer in protests after Mr. Floyd’s murder....

More traditional protesters from Black Lives Matter and other movements who try to curtail violence are now ridiculed as “peace police” by the anarchists, who mostly consist of young, white men....

“Being able to protest every night is a white privilege, being able to yell at a police’s face is a white privilege,” said Gregory McKelvey, a prominent Black organizer who ran the mayoral campaign last year for Mr. Wheeler’s opponent, Sarah Iannarone... “These are people who have felt like they’ve had no agency or power in their life or in the political system,” he said. “They want to feel powerful, and when you can have the mayor talking about you every single day, and hundreds of police officers show up to fight you every day, you feel more powerful than when you’re sitting at home.”

I miss the era when nobody in New York cared about Portland. The big issue was whether you should be allowed to block out your space for the Rose Festival parade by marking it off on the sidewalk with duct tape the night before. Remember that? Now the big question is whether routine rioting is white privilege. How far we've "progressed."


  1. Struck me as a good report. I'm not there, as you are, but with 25 to 75 nihilists trashing everything in sight for months on end, including legitimate protests, the fact that there are still cops willing to step up and protect the community is admirable. I'd have committed those idiots to a slow boat to Antartica many months ago.


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