From TPM Reader RK …
Like NM, I haven’t been to the protests (I’m a bit too old for this, having spent some of my youth canvasing for Tom Hayden on the other coast, running from John Mitchell and hanging out with the great Eqbal Ahmad [one of the Harrisburg 8]). But I have been following closely on various Twitter feeds from the marvelous journalists embedded with the resistance (Zane Sparling @PDXzane, Cory Elia @TheRealCoryElia, Everton Bailey Jr. @EvertonBailey, Donovan “It was the blurst of times” Farley @DonovanFarley, Lindsey Smith (she/her) @LindseyPSmith7, Tuck Woodstock @tuckwoodstock, Robert Evans (The Only Robert Evans) @IwriteOK . . . .). I agree with both your anonymous reader from 10 blocks out and with NM (there’s a long history of division and conflict in Portland, and the Feds have really screwed our chances for real police reform, at least in the short run). A couple of additional thoughts:
Pretty predictably the presence of federal forces in Portland and widespread news coverage of the same has triggered big increases in the size of the crowds protesting each night near the federal court house. I’ve had a hard time getting a clear read of the crowd size, other than thousands compared to hundreds or fewer little more than a week ago. But a dramatically larger group of people were out last night, with a heavy presence self-identified “moms” and “dads” joining.
TPM Reader NM checks in with his take from Portland …
For what it’s worth, here’s some perspective from a non-anarchist, protest-sympathizing, typical-liberal Portlander. I get out to a protest of some sort every couple of years, but I stand with the mellow hippy contingent, and I feel liberal guilt because I’ve only been to one BLM protest since George Floyd was killed. So that should give a sense of where I’m coming from on this.
First, you need to be aware of JoAnn Hardesty, a long time police reform activist and now the first black woman to be elected to our small and very oddly constituted city council. Earlier in her term council voted down her package of mild Police reforms, but since the protests began she has started to make some progress. The unprecedented wave of awareness and support in the city may give Hardesty a unique opportunity to do amazing things to transform policing in Portland. The real possibility of meaningful change, enacted now, not punted until after the election, raises the stakes and the urgency.
This TPM Reader who we’ll keep anon even for initials gives what I think is helpful context for the larger situation in Portland …
As a resident who lives 10 blocks from the conflict zone and has long involvement with some of the actors involved I share observations regarding contextual dimensions of current turmoil:
Recent confrontations in downtown Portland and intervention by federal agents capture our attention but obscure broader, extended tensions that shape immediate developments. There have been a series of fatal encounters between Portland police and our minority communities, and these overlie an array of violent responses to people who are mentally ill. These stretch over several years so the George Floyd murder and similar events came not as shocks but as a renewed provocation. This accounts for the persistence and commitment of many Portland protestors. Ironically Portland police and demonstrators have in many respects work out informal “rules of engagement”to reduce property damage, injuries, and arrests only to have federal forces provoke renewed violence, presumably in their effort to dominate the streets.
Quite a lot happened over the weekend in Portland, Oregon. I’ll likely have a few posts and TPM Reader accounts to share with you over the course of the day. But first a bit of overview. I’m no expert on Portland. And I’d want ask TPM Readers in the city and region to keep sending me their accounts to help me and our team deepen our understanding of the situation and on-going developments.
The following gives, I believe, a good overview of the basic dynamics of what’s happening and the latest events.
It remains important to understand that quite apart from all the Trump shenanigans, there really is an issue in Portland. There have been on-going protests in the city since the nationwide protests starting in late May. But as the protests have dissipated nationwide they’ve continued, albeit in smaller numbers, in Portland. As the protests in Portland have gotten smaller they’ve also become more militant. There’s a subset of the protestors who have repeatedly over the last six weeks resorted to low level violence (throwing objects at police), minor vandalism and even arson, all focused on this one federal court house complex.
Congress is back in session and if lawmakers are able to band together to pass some sort of COVID-19 relief package in coming weeks, it might be the last major piece of legislation we see before the 2020 election.
Which means: things could get ridiculous. There’s too much at risk to expect any different.
TPM Reader JC flagged this press conference with the Mayor of Portland and the Chief of Police where they discuss the on-going protests in the city and the role of DHS law enforcement and the President in re-inflaming the situation.
I’ve captured this one answer from Mayor Ted Wheeler in which he says the situation was settling down before federal forces re-escalated the situation with their aggressive tactics.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler says protests/vandalism was winding down before Feds came in and re-inflamed the situation with aggressive tactics and escalation. pic.twitter.com/t9JgzJiKkr
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) July 18, 2020
Last night I noted that Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli told NPR that not only were they not pulling back on their actions in Portland but that they planned to take them nationwide. The brief NPR interview is important because along with other reporting that came out over the course of Friday it helps understand just what the White House is doing and the purported legal rationale under which they are doing it.
As we’ve discussed, even as protests have subsided in much of the United States, they’ve continued in Portland, with an especial focus on Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse in the city. There has been a faction of protestors who’ve set off fireworks, painted graffiti and thrown bottles at police in nightly standoffs. This federal building is key.
When asked about calls for an investigation into DHS police tactics in Portland, Oregon, Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli tells NPR not only are they not going to stop but they want to take the tactics nationwide.
Well, we are – we welcome – the more investigations, the better. With as much lawbreaking is going on, we’re seeking to prosecute as many people as are breaking the law as it relates to federal jurisdiction. That’s not always happening with respect to local jurisdiction and local offenses. But, you know, this is a posture we intend to continue not just in Portland but in any of the facilities that we’re responsible for around the country.
Here are a couple more articles worth your time to read if you’re trying to make sense of the federal deployment in Portland. One is from The Nation and details a memo from Customs and Border Protection detailing the operation and how to discuss it with the public. The other is from the Times and provides an overview and range of details about the operation. (A bigfoot news organization can break facts free.) The upshot is that we should see this deployment in Portland and other cities as a continuation of the incident in Lafayette Park more than six weeks ago.
It seems increasingly clear that President Trump is trying to use the most politicized and violent agencies of federal law enforcement to provoke confrontations in American cities to push his ‘law and order’ campaign message. Zoë Richards gave us an overview this morning of what we know so far.
There are on-going protests in Portland focused especially around the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse and a faction of people committing low-level acts of vandalism tied to those protests. Local police say they are trying to separate the two groups. Tim Dickinson has a deep dive here in Rolling Stone on how this is proving difficult for a number of reasons, not least of which is deep-seated suspicion of the city police force in what is after all a very progressive city.
You have likely seen the growing clinical evidence that COVID is not only a respiratory disease but frequently strikes at the brain and nervous system. A group of new studies out of Spain provide more detailed evidence. Our Spanish correspondent TPM Reader SH sent me this article in El Pais (English language version). The headline is that over half of COVID patients in Spain developed neurological problems of one sort of another.
This is a remarkable statistic I had not seen. 31.1% of Florida children (people under 18) who have been tested for COVID have been positive. That is about three times higher than the rest of the population.
It’s not entirely clear what to make of this statistic. Only about 50,000 people under the age of 18 have been tested, out of about 2.8 million tests in the state. So it seems quite possible that the percentage is so high because the kids who are being tested are either clearly symptomatic or living with parents who are positive. In other words, an artifact of the testing protocol itself. Still, it’s a high number. And the public health director in Palm Beach County is warning that we simply don’t know what kind of long term damage these infections could be doing.
As was reported yesterday, the White House has taken the collection of COVID data out of the hands of the CDC and given it over to a private medical data company in Pittsburgh. On its face the company doesn’t seem obviously scammy. It’s not some fly-by-night set up by Brad Parscale’s uncle. So we don’t know quite what the angle to this is, not the specifics. My best guess is that it is simply to maintain a tighter hold on information and keep it out of the hands of the CDC, which even under its stalwartly Trumpian current leadership has shown some recent signs of bucking the President’s demands for COVID denial and no-holds-barred school reopenings.
What we can say more definitively is that at the moment the full weight of the federal government appears harnessed toward covering up and denying the bad news about the resurgent epidemic and force-marching the economy and the nation’s schools into a dead cat bounce that will salvage the President’s flagging reelection prospects.
TPM Reader PC nails it:
Longtime TPM reader in Canada. The other comments from abroad got me thinking about the alleged White House strategy of getting the public accustomed to living with a high level of outbreaks. It might seem delusional to expect people to accept mass illness and death – but there’s plenty of precedent.
From TPM Reader SA …
I’m a long-time TPM reader (back to 2002 or something) and one of the original prime members and also a TPM insider. I live in NYC, most of the time. My wife and I are both professors at a university in New York City and we have small children (ages 6 and 4). We are overall extremely lucky: no one got sick and we are not in much danger of losing our jobs. But, the lack of child care, and the *uncertainty* around child care, has just been really tough.
About a month ago we were in a zoom meeting with the school where our smallest is registered for pre-K when we were blindsided by the sudden realization that ***they were really contemplating not opening the schools full time.***
From TPM Reader CF …
I’m a US citizen in Australia – haven’t lived in the US since 2005 (was in Europe for a number of years and I’m married to a european), but all my family is in New England (specifically in an area with pretty low Covid rates). Reading the commentary on the editor’s blog from all the CA residents really brought home the dissonance between how Americans are experiencing this pandemic and how I am down here.
From TPM Reader DW …
My eldest daughter (a French citizen) lives in Paris. When Paris locked down, she was only allowed to go out of her house – up to 1 kilometer- for exercise or to the store, twice a day, and for exercise- it had to be between specific hours. It was pretty drastic since she lives in a very tiny Parisian studio and was not allowed to do any exercise socially, such as walk with a friend. She was required to carry a written statement about why she was out should law enforcement stop her. They did allow people to return to their families before their shutdown and most of her Parisian apartment neighbors went to their parents’ regional homes. The only people she came in contact with were the grocery store clerks, who were behind plastic panels. Her hours at the university that employs her were reduced, but French unemployment made up the difference.
This story about sending the National Guard into hospitals is bizarre and telling about our national situation. Six months into this crisis the canonical sources of data on the COVID epidemic in the US are one data project run out of The Atlantic (The COVID Tracking Project) and another run out of Johns Hopkins University. The federal government isn’t really even in the game. These are glorious, impressive, dedicated works of public service and data science. But the fact that they need to exist is, frankly, a disgrace.
Now the Trump administration has decided that hospitals are being lax about reporting data on COVID cases. It appears likely that most hospitals are doing just what they’re told and that the problem is disorganized and inconsistent guidance from the Department of Health and Human Services.
From TPM Reader FW …
I echo ME’s anger. We both are in our mid 60’s and work from home so that part of Covid hasn’t been a big deal. We started to draw back in mid February, when I started stocking up on stapes. Except for early voting in late February I haven’t been anywhere outside of our immediate neighborhood. I switched to grocery delivery. We get food delivered once or twice a week. Some enterprising neighbor has arranged for food trucks to copy by a few times a week (they normally get their business from bars). I haven’t had a draft beer since February and was sort of hoping that by now I would feel safe visiting a local brewery with a beer garden — but no. Probably 75% of the people I see walking the neighborhood wear masks and I could have predicted most of the 25% that don’t from behavior before the pandemic.
From TPM Reader AK …
Several times a week I say out loud, “I wish I was in New Zealand right now..” I want more than anything to experience living in an English speaking country with a competent government, and friendly people that believe in science and don’t hate each other. It’s disheartening that I can’t even flee to Canada right now because the border is closed.