First published on The Big Smoke.
September 29, 2020
A few Proud Boys came to Portland, Oregon, on Saturday, threatening anyone who got in their way. Believing their blustering boasts that thousands would participate in their rally, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed a state of emergency Executive Order on Friday.
She handed control over “law enforcement coordination” to the Oregon State Police (OSP) and Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO). This was done deliberately to bypass court orders and feeble attempts by elected officials’ to restrain Portland Police. Putting the city cops under OSP and MCSO command, removed the (often-ignored) prohibitions against attacking and arresting the reporters and legal observers who document their violent nightly assaults on protesters.
As part of this, the U.S. Marshals Service deputized 56 Portland Police Bureau (PPB) officers and 22 Multnomah County Sheriff’s Deputies as federal marshals early Saturday morning. This was in addition to approximately 50 Oregon State Police troopers who were deputized in July for one year as part of Brown’s deal with the Trump administration to return the responsibility for beating, gassing, and arresting Black Lives Matter protesters to OSP, MCSO, and PPB, relieving U.S. Marshals, Federal Protective Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Homeland Security Investigations, etc.
Anointing local officers as federal officials allows federal prosecutors to charge protesters with federal crimes. Most importantly for local cops, federal marshal status allows the U.S. Attorney’s Office to bypass progressive Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt. Elected by more than 75% of voters, Schmidt has a mandate to change the criminal justice system. The resounding defeat of the handpicked successor of previous law-and-order District Attorney Rod Underhill led him to resign five months early in a fit of pique. And Schmidt’s refusal to prosecute protesters for crimes that do not involve violence or property destruction has angered local police.
Also, anyone accused of assaulting a peace officer, a charge frequently made without justification, would now face severely harsher penalties for “assault on a federal officer”. Protesters filmed attempting to cover their faces or protect their heads with their hands are routinely charged with “assaulting” an officer. On Monday, PPB claimed that most of the officers working Saturday night/Sunday morning were on light duty due to “injuries”. As a public defender noted Sunday, “Nearly every time someone I represented was charged w/ assaulting a police officer, the wounds were self-inflicted. Bruised hands. Pulled shoulders. Twisted ankles. When you rush, push, punch, kick, & attack protestors w/ hundreds of other cops, you’re likely going to get hurt.”
Since July, federal charges have already been filed against a number of protesters including four announced on Monday. Despite the executive order expiring early Monday morning, the deputization will remain in effect through the end of the year — until after the election and whatever turmoil follows.
On Saturday, fewer than 200 white supremacists turned out at Delta Park in north Portland. They were armed with AR-15s and other long guns, pistols, paintball guns, bear mace, and shields. They were captured on camera (photographs and video) breaking various laws and ordinances, often in full view of police, including:
- Smoking in a city park (“No person shall smoke or use tobacco in any form in any place in any Park. For purposes of this policy, smoking and tobacco are defined to include, but are not limited to: bidis, cigarettes, cigarillos, cigars, clove cigarettes, e-cigarettes, nicotine vaporizers, nicotine liquids, hookahs, kreteks, pipes, chew, snuff, smokeless tobacco, and marijuana.”)
- Drinking alcohol in a city park (“Alcohol is not allowed on park property unless you have applied for and received a permit”. It should be noted that the Proud Boys applied for, and were denied, a permit partially because they significantly overestimated the anticipated number of participants.)
- Violating the Weapons and Explosives section of Portland’s city code prohibiting the carrying of loaded firearms without a concealed handgun licensed. (“Oregon is one of the few states that does not recognize any other state‘s” concealed carry license. Many of the Proud Boys were from out of state and unlikely to have applied for or received an Oregon license. Police asked about this violation wouldn’t answer questions as to whether police had checked if any of the armed Proud Boys were licensed to carry.)
- Operating an armed checkpoint preventing people from entering a public park
- Assaulting at least three journalists including one who is Black and another who is Syrian, injuring at least one, and damaging their equipment; none of those involved in the assaults were arrested (Portland Police claim to be investigating the incident in which the Black journalist was kicked in the head, but took no action at the time. After the incident, Oregon State Police were seen talking and joking with the person who committed assault. The mugger has since been identified by anti-fascists as Samson Steele of Tangent, Oregon, an employee of Pacific Northwest Environmental, LLC in Damascus. No known attempt to arrest Samson has been made.)
No efforts were made to stop or arrest any of the Proud Boys, who were seen “chatting it up with cops”. However, police did prevent anti-fascists from unloading shields, and arrested someone who was helping them, at a Black Lives Matter counter protest.
Meanwhile, more than 2,000 anti-fascists gathered at multiple locations throughout the city for several peaceful counter protests that included speeches, music, mutual aid, food distribution, information sharing, and the 100th protest appearance of the no drama llama.
After only ninety minutes, the Proud Boys left Portland. As night fell, Black Lives Matter activists gathered downtown to continue the ongoing protests against #PoliceBrutality and police murders of numerous Black men and women. While they listened to speeches, Portland Police, still under command of OSP and MCSO, attacked them with a vicious fury that demonstrated raging hatred, suppressed by court orders and city attempts to rein them in.
[Content Warning: many of the following links are to videos that show graphic violence by police.]
After sitting around all day ignoring Proud Boys’ illegal activity, police had lots of energy to chase protesters. Police, who removed even the inscrutable numbers previously providing an almost-useless way to identify them, wore black uniforms with only the words “police” printed on their backs making it impossible to determine which agency they worked for. They:
- Made multiple arrests in response to a flag being burned, protected speech according to the U.S. Supreme Court, despite earlier ignoring numerous law violations committed by white supremacists
- Arrested one person Saturday night for allegedly possessing a very small can of “bear spray” and a baton, despite not even citing Proud Boys for carrying semi-automatic weapons, pistols, and large cans of mace
- Arrested people for playing basketball
- While repeatedly claiming the street was open to vehicular traffic, knocked a delivery driver, not involved in the protest, off his bicycle and arrested him
- Sprayed mace in one protestor’s face for waving a sign and “flipping off” an officer;
- Body slammed protestors to the ground to arrest them
- Randomly grabbed people out of the crowd while yelling “you’re going to jail“, threw them to the ground, and arrested them
- Ganged up in large groups to hold protesters’ head on the concrete while arresting them;
- Attacked people who were following their directions, threw them to the ground, and arrested them for not getting out of the way
- Threw a 70-year-old man, who’s been a regular supporter at protest for the last several months but has never confronted police, to the ground
- Repeatedly and viciously attacked members of the press, shoving them into trees, onto the ground, and into protesters as well as:
- used batons to push and hit them
- knocked a 73-year-old photographer to the ground with so much force only his helmet saved him from traumatic brain injury
- violently assaulted, shoved to the ground, and arrested a blind journalist and the member of the press who is her guide, all while the two of them repeatedly identified themselves as press, disabled, and complying with police orders.
More than 30 people were arrested, most for nebulous “crimes” which could all be interpreted as attempts to suppress freedom of speech such as disorderly conduct, interfering with a peace officer, resisting arrest, and harassment. Mug shots show many of those arrested with facial injuries, including multiple contusions, swollen lips and eyes, abrasions, and cuts. A number of people required medical attention.
John Rudoff, the 73-year-old photographer police threw to the ground, posted: “…the cops need to understand that an action like this — shoving a guy down on the cement with no warning — can fracture a hip or an arm or a skull, and can be a life-ending or career/mobility-ending move.” I responded on Twitter, “They do understand. They don’t care. They see injury/death as a way to get people off the streets.”
Before Saturday’s events, the governor stated: “Let me be very clear. Those who commit serious, violent acts will be charged, prosecuted and held accountable.” But her only response to the documented, horrific violence committed by Portland Police, Multnomah County Sherriff’s Deputies, and the Oregon State Police on Saturday night was to ask “Superintendent Hampton, Sheriff Reese, and Chief Lovell to review any alleged incidents involving officers from each of their agencies during joint operations last night.” In response, hundreds of Oregonians demanded an independent investigation via Twitter and telephone.
Multiple media outlets, which had filed voluminous reports about the clash that didn’t happen Saturday afternoon, mostly ignored the outrageous violence Saturday night as they have the previous four months of police brutality. At least one outlet regurgitated the standard police lies that projectiles were thrown at officers even though the only “weapons” confiscated from all the protesters arrested were the aforementioned “can of bear spray and a baton”.
Despite numerous reports of police attacking multiple members of the press, to say nothing about the abuse heaped on multitudinous protesters, the Independent Police Review of the Portland City Auditor’s Office which is responsible for “independent, civilian oversight of the Portland Police Bureau”, posted only that “the IPR is aware of video footage circulating on social media that shows an officer grabbing a press photographer and throwing him to the ground during a protest on the night of September 26, 2020. IPR has opened an investigation into this incident“. As one reporter asked, “If a person is grabbed by an officer and thrown to the ground and it’s not caught on camera/doesn’t involve a well-known person, does it get an investigation?”
The “Unified Command” responded to use of force concerns by stating: “Individuals who felt an officer’s action was unjust or excessive, should file a complaint with the officer’s department or review board. Each officer is responsible for following their agency’s use of force policy.” As previously noted, police made sure it was impossible to determine which agency they worked for.
On Monday evening, police continued to drive home the message that there are two sets of laws in Portland: one for white supremacists who support police and the racist in chief, and completely different standards for Black Lives Matter activists and anti-fascists. Despite ignoring much more egregious crimes listed above that Proud Boys committed Saturday, on Monday night/Tuesday morning, police:
- Violated protesters’ Fourth Amendment rights by searching them and their belongings and seizing their property
- Viciously shoved a woman, who may or may not have been involved in the protests (she wasn’t dressed for it) to the ground, and when she regained her feet pushed her, dazed, to the sidewalk
- Violently arrested multiple people for:
- being on the sidewalk
- possessing small, personal safety gear items such as pepper spray often carried for protection
- crossing the street
- sarcastically pointing out the status of living rent-free in a cop’s head (This man, a frequent police target, is a wheelchair user, but the charges require the cop fear they are in imminent serious danger.)
- kicking a can
- asking officers why they were whispering
- standing in the 7-Eleven parking lot
- registering people to vote
Police were also captured on video collecting rocks to use to support their daily fabricated tales about protesters throwing “projectiles” at them. Today, Portland Police even claimed that “at least 5 officers were sprayed by a chemical irritant“, attempting to imply that protesters had done so, even though multiple reporters had captured them carelessly spraying each other in attempts to injure more protesters.
When asked how to end the protests, one police officer specifically told a homeowner, that the only way they would stop abusing protesters would be “if people liked our trump government a lot more“.