Portland is often viewed through rose-colored lenses as a city in which open-minded individuals receptive to different ideas, viewpoints, beliefs, and backgrounds come together to indulge in craft beer, legalized marijuana and the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. It is a place that prides itself on political participation and exercising free speech. Peaceful protests against seemingly every issue imaginable often take place; yet more recently, escalating tensions between far left and far right activists have taken protests to a new level, leading to chaos and destruction.
Rioting around the city has been increasingly prominent since November’s election. People have been hurt, property has been destroyed, and the city’s image of tolerance and acceptance has been tarnished as violence erupts from both sides of the political spectrum. The second that free speech stands to put lives at risk, it is not considered protected speech. This level of so-called activism does little to sway those with opposing viewpoints while creating a problem the city is finding difficult to keep under control.
November Riots (November 9, 2016)
The night of the election sparked protests around the country, but perhaps none grew so violent as those in Portland. Over four thousand protesters marched through the streets during what began as a peaceful protest. The tune quickly changed as certain self-described anarchists turned the dial to full-on riot mode. Rioters threw objects at police, vandalized several businesses, lit fires, and blocked freeways. Police fought back with pepper spray and rubber bullets. Fights broke out between protesters and supporters; someone chucked a Molotov cocktail into a bonfire. Shattered glass illuminated the city as the riots destroyed downtown.
Toyota of Portland was badly hit, with vehicles completely totaled by the rioters. Brick, bats, cinder blocks, and human power were all used to break glass and cause irreversible damage to new cars on the lot. Areas of the Pearl and Pioneer Square looked as if a storm had hit. About a thousand protesters marched on I-5 and I-84 blocking swaths of freeway. The demonstrations lasted three days.
The damage: over $1 million worth of property damage; 26 arrests.
Inauguration Day Protests (January 20, 2017)
Five individual protests took place Inauguration Day Friday, but none as large as the Inauguration Day flag burning in which thousands gathered at Pioneer Courthouse Square to march downtown. In anticipation of the damage done in November, dozens of schools and businesses closed early to allow students and employees to arrive home safely. All MAX services going downtown were canceled.
Like the November protests, the rally was deemed peaceful until about 8 pm when rioters threw bottles, rocks, and flares at police. Police responded with flash bangs, rubber bullets, and tear gas. Unlike election night, however, rioters did not cause mass destruction throughout the city until the wee hours of the next morning. In fact, police arrested just six protesters on charges of second-degree disorderly conduct. One of those protesters was wanted by police for his actions on the night of the election. Protesters were not allowed access to freeways, bridges, or the east side of town as officers had learned a thing or two following November’s infamous demonstrations.
The damage: minimal property damage; 6 arrests.
May Day 2017 (May 1, 2017)
This year’s May Day demonstrations were more politically-charged than those of previous years. What started out as a peaceful march for labor rights again ended in turmoil as the self-called anarchists struck again. Police were struck by rocks, soda cans, and targeted by fireworks, Molotov cocktails, and other objects. The march was deemed a riot at 5 pm at which point the police canceled the permitted march. Twenty-five protesters were arrested, including three minors, on charges of assault, arson, criminal mischief, and theft. Police warned residents on Twitter not to come downtown unless it was absolutely necessary.
The damage: Broken or shattered windows at a handful of retailers, Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse, City Hall, Gus J. Solomon U.S. Courthouse building, and Michael Parsons Fine Arts Gallery; 25 arrests.
Alt-Right Free Speech Rally (June 4, 2017)
The “alternative right” is a loosely-defined far-right political movement associated with white nationalism. A small but vocal population resides in Portland, the largest city in a “blue” state. Just nine days after the MAX tragedy, demonstrators aligning with the alt-right movement gathered for a free speech rally. Police surrounded the event to keep protesters at bay. Two hundred and fifty alt-right protesters clashed against over 1,000 left-leaning counter-protesters downtown in Terry Schrunk Plaza.
Police reported being hit by the counter-protesters with bottles, bricks, and balloons filled with smelly liquid. They seized hundreds of makeshift weapons and arrested 14 people.
You can find out about upcoming protests and resistance movements in your area by checking out https://pdxactivist.org/. Whether you are an active participant or a bystander, it is important to be alert and report illegal activity. To learn more about issues impacting safety, well-being, and justice, contact Rizklaw or call 503-245-567.