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.
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.