Peaceful Protests

First published on The Big Smoke.
September 9, 2020

The white mayor, various other mostly white regional elected officials, the white editorial board of the “local” (actually owned by national media chain) newspaper, and numerous mostly white-owned businesses have called (repeatedly) for an end to the violence on the streets of Portland, Oregon.

They use passive language–“the violence needs to end”, “All of us must take a stance against violence”, “violence has no place in civic engagement and protest”, etc.–while barely giving lip service to Black Lives Matter (ignoring centuries of abuse and police violence and claiming to know what behavior is appropriate for Black people trying to stop the police from killing them) or the First Amendment right “to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

But, nowhere, in any of their documents, editorials, statements, or letters, do any of them acknowledge that, night after night, the primary perpetrators of violence–the people breaking bones, and cracking open peoples’ heads that results in concussions and traumatic brain injuries, and causing other injuries that have put people in the hospital–wear the uniforms and badges of the Portland Police Bureau.

White supremacist groups have come to Portland on several occasions, shooting paint ball guns and mace, threatening people with loaded pistols, and beating people with baseball bats. The police don’t arrest the Fascist group members for felonious assaults committed and recorded on video. Yet night after night, police arrest Black Lives Matter protesters for disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and the ever-popular interfering with a police officer (a nebulous, undefined law that has been interpreted by police as anything from insulting a police officer, which is not actually a crime, to not running away fast enough).

Night after night, any violence that isn’t committed by right-wing “patriots” is inflicted by the Portland Police.

After 59 people were arrested Saturday night/Sunday morning, and after being prevented by the police from reaching their protest goal the evening before, on Tuesday, September 8th, protesters implemented a new tactic. Whenever the police tried to block them, they went somewhere else. They flowed through the streets of downtown Portland, shifting direction and destination.

Police told protesters to stay off the train tracks, while they themselves stood on the train tracks. They told protesters not to block the street, while they themselves blocked the street. Police threatened protesters, via Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), with “arrest, citation, or crowd control agents, including, but not limited to, tear gas and/or impact weapons.”

But there is no evidence any protesters threw water bottles, plastic pigs, or fruit at police. No one affiliated with the protest set dumpster fires, which have become a protest mascot and have been used as barriers to stop drivers from attempting to run down pedestrians with their vehicles. Presumably aware of the high fire danger, no one even started a small trash fire. No new graffiti was added to government buildings.

Protesters listened to speeches and rap songs excoriating the police and the mayor, chanted, and danced in front of City Hall. Even Mayor Edward Tevis “Tear Gas Ted” Wheeler, who is also the police commissioner, couldn’t have called it anything but a peaceful protest. The police couldn’t justify an “unlawful assembly” or “riot” declaration for which, in the past, they’ve only needed a minuscule excuse, such as a balloon being tossed in their direction.

So, instead, police declared the streets the protesters occupied, and an additional dozen blocks of downtown Portland, closed to pedestrians. And then, as protesters cleared the area, expanded the closure to more than forty blocks.

Police chased and attacked protesters, throwing them violently to the ground; pushed them off the sidewalk they had ordered them to stay on; arrested whoever they could catch including one woman who was legally crossing the street in a crosswalk, with the light, outside the “closed” zone; including one of the Moms for Black Lives who, standing on the sidewalk as instructed, yelled at them for attacking peaceful protesters but refusing to arrest violent white supremacists; and including at least one member of the press despite a restraining order forbidding them from doing so.

For each arrest, four or five police officers tackled and restrained individuals, some weighing less than 100 pounds, who were not resisting in any way and several additional police officers attempted to prevent the press from photographing the violence while repeatedly announcing via LRAD that the arrests were “lawful”. (One normally need not repeatedly state something is “lawful” if it actually is.) Restraining and arresting a person did not stop police from inflicting further damage, including holding one man down and pulling his head up by his hair to spray mace in his face.

The nightly police-written summary, released at 2:51 a.m. Pacific time, that details arrests and invents reasons for them, as usual, contained misleading statements and outright lies.

“A mass gathering blocked streets and Trimet Max tracks in downtown Portland for several hours Tuesday evening.” That statement is only accurate if you identify the “mass gathering” as the Portland Police, because even when protesters moved away from areas as instructed, the police continued to block the streets and the train tracks. It should be noted that on numerous occasions when protesters take to the streets in Portland, they make an effort to allow Max trains, buses, and delivery trucks to pass through unimpeded.

“Targeted arrests were made” is only accurate if you consider “targeted” as anyone they could catch.

“As the group marched in the streets, group members were seen wearing helmets, gas masks, and carrying shields.” So now, apparently, the police interpret efforts made by protesters to protect themselves against further police brutality as intention to commit a criminal act.

As Mac Smiff, Portland activist and Editor-in-Chief of We Out Here, has stated: “We came out here dressed in T-shirts and twirling Hula-Hoops and stuff, and they started gassing us, so we came back with respirators, and they started shooting us, so we came back with vests, and they started aiming for the head, so we started wearing helmets, and now they call us terrorists.”

Eleven arrests were made on charges of interfering with a peace officer, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest (under Oregon law people have the right to defend themselves against unreasonable use of force). One person had an additional charge of attempt escape tacked on.

None of those arrested were charged with vandalism (despite claims in the summary that vandalizing property had occurred), assault, or even littering (despite claims in the summary that projectiles had been thrown). The county District Attorney, Mike Schmidt, has specifically said his office will not press charges for interference with a police officer or disorderly conduct and Oregon courts have ruled that resisting arrest is not a valid charge in and of itself.

The Portland Police have made it very clear that they will not tolerate any form of protest, peaceful or otherwise, that calls out their racism, their violence, and their brutality, nor any calls for eliminating their funding. So, exactly what do officials and media mean when they declare “we ask those who may want to demonstrate to do so peacefully and safely” or “This is not the culture of peaceful protest that Portland knows”?

Blue Crime Matters

First published on The Big Smoke.
August 29, 2020

Much has been written and broadcast about “lawless” protesters in Portland, Oregon—until August 23, 2020 considered “ground zero” for the Black Lives Matter uprising against racist policing—and other U.S. cities. But the protesters have not committed many of the transgressions of which they have been accused. A few of them have, at worst, engaged in some vandalism, but most have never broken a single law. Many have even gone so far as to follow unlawful and often conflicting orders from the police rather than risk doing something not legal.

Almost all of the protest-related violence not committed by police has been perpetrated by right-wing, white supremacist hate groups who have a history of coming to Portland to attack anti-fascist, BLM, and anti-Trump protesters.

Although protesters have thrown pig feed, squeaky pigs, dildos, plastic water bottles, apples, eggs, vegan milkshakes, balloons filled with paint, and the ever traditional rotten tomatoes, these have been aimed at police wearing helmets, face shields, and full body armor (and rarely actually hit them unless the items bounce off the pavement). In response, police have shot protesters with hard plastic/rubber bullets, pepper balls, flash bang impact grenades, and canisters of mace, smoke, and tear gas, many aimed directly at protesters’ heads.

police in riot gear threatening protestersThe Portland Police are guilty of numerous crimes—many of extreme violence—for which they have not been arrested, charged, and/or prosecuted. Like police across the United States, they constantly and consistently act as if the law does not apply to them—from the smallest infraction to flagrant disregard for human life and safety. Many of their actions would be considered war crimes if they were used against anyone outside the United States.

“PPB is required to adhere to all laws” according to the Portland Police Bureau’s Directives Manual. But videos collected nightly by independent journalists document state and federal laws, police bureau policies, and city codes that Portland Police constantly violate, from traffic violations to assault and battery.

The list below is by no means complete, but these are all offenses that these same police officers would ticket and/or arrest any civilian who committed them (and possibly murder someone who is BIPOC). Nor does this list include documented incidents of crimes such as domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment, and murder of which police in every jurisdiction have been found guilty.

Police have tried to prevent the public from learning about the magnitude of the crimes they have committed on the streets of Portland just during the past 90+ days by specifically targeting and attacking anyone who attempts to film their illegal activities or collect evidence (including shooting directly at numerous reporters and legal observers). Despite court orders and laws forbidding them from doing so, police constantly threaten, push, and attack reporters, medics, and legal observers and have arrested a number of them on bogus charges. Police also cover up their names and badge numbers to prevent the media and protesters from filing complaints against them.

Although there is no empirical evidence that police contribute to public safety, there is ample data they have a detrimental impact in that regard. Police routinely abuse, injure, rape, and murder Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color and rarely face significant consequences for their actions. They belong to well-financed, influential organizations whose primary purpose is to protect police officers from accountability and fight and/or sabotage any attempts at police reform.

Police budgets bleed municipalities dry—especially as those cities struggle to meet their residents’ needs during a pandemic—sometimes consuming more than all other city expenditures combined. Abolishing police would alleviate budget crunches; provide funds for social services, education, health care, and infrastructure; improve public safety and reduce crime rates; and go a long way towards providing social justice for communities of color.

Some of the offenses recorded and available on video from the streets of Portland include (but are not limited to):

  • Violently beating people (not all of their victims are protesters) with fists and batons; yanking them out of their vehicles; throwing them to the ground, off their bicycles, against curbs, and into walls; shooting them in the head with so-called “less-than-lethal” projectiles; spraying chemical weapons in their faces; and deliberately pulling those not wearing respirators into clouds of tear gas which has resulted in serious contusions, cuts, burns, broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, and other (sometimes permanent) damage requiring hospitalization.
  • Violating court-ordered restraints against preventing journalists and legal observers from doing their jobs by harassing, arresting, gassing/macing, beating, and shooting them.
  • Violating protesters’ First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment rights.
  • Falsely arresting and unlawfully detaining protesters on charges that district attorneys have informed police do not constitute illegal actions and will not be prosecuted, as well as violently detaining people and dumping them overnight, or longer, into a jail that refuses to implement sanitation procedures necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 for charges that at most should warrant a citation.
  • Polluting homes, businesses, vehicles, and houseless encampments with CS gas that permeates fabrics, upholstery, drywall, and other materials.
  • Vandalizing vehicles—including repeatedly breaking car windows and slashing tires (just one victim of repeated police attacks on their vehicle reports replacing 30 tires on theirs and others’ vehicles over a three-month period)—owned by members of the media, people who support protesters by providing food and medical supplies, and uninvolved bystanders.
  • Destroying property including flipping medics’ wagons to damage their supplies, driving over carts of first-aid supplies and snacks, and demolishing private property unrelated to the protests (such as smashing barricades set up by restaurants to block off streets as outdoor dining space during the phased pandemic re-opening and the bicycle of a teen who happened to be riding by a protest).
  • Stealing food, medical supplies, shoes, clothing, backpacks, musical instruments, bicycles, sound equipment, umbrellas, shields used to protect against batons and munitions, and cell phones from protesters, those supporting them but not actually participating in the protests, and people in the neighborhood who are not affiliated with the protests in any way.
  • Photographing and video recording protesters, reporters, and legal observers in violation of state law.
  • Violating various police bureau policies and city codes, including:
    • Retaliating against community members who are exercising their legal rights by targeting them for beatings and arrest (including Demetria Hester whose report of a hate crime on a Max train by Jeremy Christian the day before he murdered two men, hospitalized a third, and traumatized two teenage girls was ignored by police).
    • Assisting “criminals in avoiding arrest and punishment” by working with members of Proud Boys, Patriot Prayer, and other Nazi and white supremacist groups to help them avoid arrest and prosecution when they commit violence (including beating, stabbing, and throwing explosives at) against protesters.
    • Relying on force despite requirements to do so “as little as possible and display skills/ability to resolve conflict constitutionally.”
    • Declaring an emergency and closing off dozens of blocks of city streets to protesters, residents, and business owners even though the requirements for such an emergency only include events as serious as “an escaped prisoner, a natural disaster, a fire, an explosion,” etc.
    • Police have also used these “emergencies” as attempts to force press and legal observers to leave the scene although that same code states they must provide for “reasonable access” to any areas closed off “to members of the media for the purpose of news gathering and reporting.”
    • Refusing to “provide ID upon request.”
    • Lying about city codes (and it should be noted they are required to “have competency in city ordinance”).
    • Claiming authority they do not have, such as repeatedly declaring protest gatherings an “unlawful assembly” but refusing to say who is declaring assemblies unlawful and for what reason. Often during these “declarations” there is no illegal activity of any kind in progress and it’s only too obvious to objective observers that “unlawful assembly” is being used as an excuse to attack protesters. (It should be noted that once the State of Oregon passed legislation forbidding the use of tear gas except in the case of a riot, police immediately started declaring riots whenever they wanted to use tear gas.)
  • Producing false evidence including posting photos on social media of items allegedly confiscated or found during protests (including items obviously planted by far right provocateurs and material police have been observed collecting for those photos from area dumpsters) and showing injuries that allegedly occurred as a result of weapons that were not used (for example a scrape that supposedly resulted from a “mortar round”).
  • Lying (although cops are allowed to lie under specific circumstances, “no officer may lie to justify criminal charge”) including claiming that protesters: are rioting anytime they stand on the sidewalk outside their association clubhouse; have thrown objects such as glass bottles, bricks, and rocks at the police (most “reports” of items thrown at police are exaggerated or completely fabricated and to prove that point, one night when police claimed that a glass bottle had been thrown at them, several reporters confirmed that the only “projectiles” tossed at police were an inflatable pig and some apples from a nearby tree); have tried to burn down various glass and brick buildings when small trash fires are set near the door; have “trapped” people in buildings when one of several exits is blocked to protect protesters from surprise attacks by police; etc.
  • Violating the governor’s mask orders to protect against transmission of the coronavirus that has killed more than 400 Oregonians.
  • Spitting on the sidewalk (during a plague, made more egregious by the above and by the fact that there have been reports of Portland Police Bureau employees who are infected, but accurate information as to how many and what jobs they hold is unavailable).
  • Going the wrong way on a one-way street (with no lights or siren indicating an emergency).

Back to the Future: Cruising on the Information Superhighway

Twenty-five years ago, a month before Mosaic Netscape, the first internet browser, released; four months before PhD students at Stanford University started work on the code that became the Google search engine; and eight years before the first U.S. social networking site, Friendster, launched; my sister and I wrote an article about the future online.

We envisioned “A Day in the Life” for an “Internet-savvy entrepreneur”.

At the time, my sister, L.S. Goldhaber, and I had been in business for more than a decade writing, editing, and designing marketing materials such as newsletters, brochures, catalogues, press releases, stationery, direct mail pieces, resumes, and presentations for individuals, non-profits, and businesses as well as creating corporate identity programs and helping clients adjust to life “Cruising on the Information Superhighway”. We had two offices, one in Seattle, Washington where she lived; the other in the Chicago, Illinois suburbs where I did with five employees besides ourselves.

We already used the Internet more than most, communicating via email, transferring electronic files back and forth to take advantage of the two-hour time difference when managing work flow, and networking via bulletin boards and usenet groups. We had been producing documents using Aldus Pagemaker (launched in 1985) for more than seven years, owned personal computers since 1984, and been using personal digital assistants since 1991, five years before the introduction of the PalmPilot.

The article, published in Svoboda’s Home & Small Business, resulted from an invitation for me to speak at a “Marketing Through the Internet” seminar on September 7, 1995, and appeared in the issue promoting the event.

Re-reading the article today, it seems simplistic but it’s still a relatively accurate picture of how businesses use the Internet. We didn’t envision the Internet becoming a shopping mall, smart phones allowing you to check your email before you get out of bed, the invasion of privacy by corporations selling personal information so we can be inundated with advertising, or social networking destroying our Democracy.

But much of what we wrote still applies. I still use:

  • WordPerfect to create documents (okay, I may be in the minority on that one);
  • the internet to network with others (in my case, other authors and editors instead of small businesses);
  • listservs and online newsletters to deliver/receive useful information, especially submission calls;
  • search engines to find information in real time;
  • online petitions to learn about issues and for information to include in letters to legislators and corporations (I won’t sign the actual petitions because of privacy issues).

And, we’re still dealing with congressional interference from people who really don’t understand how the Internet works to this day.