A report back from Portland, Oregon on the continuing wave of demonstrations in response to the police murder of George Floyd.
Originally published by Its Going Down.
On June 30th, PNWYLF, Direct Action Alliance, Femmes Strike Back PDX, and Revolution Rising hosted a potluck, rally, and march against the Portland Police Bureau. Our motivation for this event was to draw attention to the ongoing brutalization and murder of Black Portlanders by the Portland Police. The Portland Police have murdered more than 65 people since 1992, mainly Black folks, unhoused folks, and those in mental crisis. We also wanted to highlight the role of the Portland Police Association (our pig union), which has protected the cops from any kind of accountability for decades.
The potluck began at 3pm at Peninsula park, the site of the massive May 29th protest against the police in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. The night of the 29th saw widespread expropriation and redecoration throughout the city and fires were lit inside the so-called Justice Center. Protests began in Portland two days earlier on May 27th in Portland when an occupation was started at the (in)Justice Center by a longtime Black activist. Protests have continued daily since then, despite heavy state violence and attempts at recuperation by so-called “leaders” and opportunistic liberal organizations. This rally on June 30th marked the 35th straight night of protests.
The rally began shortly after 6pm and featured speakers from a variety of local groups as well as performances from local artists and a land acknowledgement. The rally closed with a speaker from Direct Action Alliance and we started marching West with a steady crowd of 300+.
The march destination was not disclosed until the march began. A fuckton of cops were stationed at the North Precinct, which was the site of an insurrection a less than a week before. The crowd continued to grow as we marched North through residential neighborhoods. The crowd chanted, “Cops here, Army there, US out of everywhere” and the names of Patrick Kimmons, Quanice Hayes, Kendra James, and Jason Washington. When the march came within a dozen blocks of the Portland Police Association building, we learned that riot police were en-route. The march arrived at around 9pm, and riot police had formed a tight ring around their precious unmarked office building.
The LRAD vehicle was positioned a few blocks away, and after a couple of minutes, the LRAD was used to announce that the protest was now an “unlawful assembly.” This came as a surprise to some, as the march had remained entirely peaceful. Actions like this make it even more abundantly clear that the State needs no justification to attack protests, and appeals to “peaceful protest” are dangerous and ungrounded in logic and history.
The Portland Police started to attack and push the crowd to the East on Lombard at around 9:30pm. Pigs in riot gear, some from the Oregon State Police and some State Troopers, struck people with batons, even members of the press and people who were standing in parking lots and on sidewalks. Police held a riot line on Lombard street, protecting the PPA building and the donut shop across the street from it. Residents were denied entry to their homes and were widely pissed at the police response. Some shouted at the police from balconies and doorways. It is not everyday that your neighborhood is taken over by a white supremacist gang.
The donut shop directly across from the Portland Police Association was the site where Portland Police murdered Richard “Dickie” Dow in 1998. An SRO (School Resource Officer) from the nearby school responded to a report of a fight at the donut shop and started to follow Dickie Dow. When backup arrived, the Portland Police encircled Dow and beat him with batons in front of his parents (who they arrested) and neighbors. He was pronounced dead the next day. Dickie Dow suffered from mental illness and no cops were ever held accountable for his murder.
The crowd hastily pulled dumpsters and other materials into the street to slow the police advance. Several people had been pepper-sprayed and required medical treatment, and others had been hit by marker rounds and pepper-balls. Eventually a trash can was lit on fire, which had proved to be an effective stalling tactic in the past, although the wind blew smoke towards the protesters and not the pigs, (consider the wind, y’all)! Meanwhile, the cops held the line and continued to shoot projectiles at protesters. With no warning, the police rushed at the crowd at full speed, hitting people with batons stealing banners and signs. Smoke grenades were fired well beyond protesters and landed in traffic. Many of the smoke grenades were tossed back to the Portland Police, who then tossed them back into the crowd.
At this point, we felt that it was necessary to declare the event a cop riot, since police were stealing property and posing a threat to people’s safety. Police did not disperse despite multiple warnings, so protesters deployed half-empty water bottles in their general direction. They responded with more smoke canisters, pepper balls, and other munitions.
Once the police had pushed the crowd for several blocks, the LRAD vehicle announced that the protest was now a riot. It became clear that this was just so they could use tear gas on the crowd, especially once the riot police started to put on their gas masks. On previous nights, police would issue a “civil disturbance” or “unlawful assembly” warning before attacking people. They called the protest a “riot” because House Bill 4208, which passed on June 26th, prohibits the use of CS gas unless there is a “riot.” The Portland Police are also under an injunction that prohibits the use of tear gas, which was filed by Don’t Shoot Portland.
At around 10:15pm, the riot police began firing tear gas (CS gas) into the crowd. The first canisters were fired well beyond the crowd, in the direction that people were supposed to disperse to. Some canisters were fired towards a gas station on the corner of Interstate avenue and Lombard. Several vehicles not associated with the protest were still in the roadway when the cops started gassing and people were also outside waiting for the yellow line MAX and multiple bus lines. Police fired dozens of tear gas canisters into the crowd and continued to shoot them as people fled. The tear gas clouds were so dense that even with a pair of airtight goggles it was difficult to see. Many people streamed into the residential streets and shouted at neighbors to close their windows and doors. Others waded through traffic and ran East into a multi-lane intersection. It took several minutes for people to catch their breath and open their eyes.
Some people managed to regroup and hold Lombard just East of Interstate Avenue. The crowd had thinned at this point, but at least 150 people remained. Police continued to riot through the streets of Portland, shooting flashbangs and other munitions into the crowd as people moved further East. At this point, police ramped up their efforts to make arrests. As with previous nights, police were targeting journalists and livestreamers for arrest. Two KBOO affiliated videographers, Cory Elia and Lesley McClain, were arrested despite having press badges visible and “PRESS” on their clothing. Earlier in the night, Police stole a Go-Pro from Portland photojournalist Alex Milan Tracy.
The remaining group of protesters marched to the North Precinct, and the gathering was instantly declared an “unlawful assembly.” Riot cops continued to push people East down Killingsworth, where police arrested a third journalist, from Portland Independent Documentarians.
The day after the PPA protest, city council voted unanimously in favor of extending the Portland Police contract, which included a three percent raise for cops. Mayor Ted Wheeler (Tear Gas Tevis) amplified token “community leaders” promoting the century-old outside agitator myth , proving that the city of Portland will only listen to Black voices when it is politically convenient. We reject the empty reforms lauded by our “progressive” city government leaders. Tear gas hurts just as bad when it is fired by a police department with a Black chief. We vehemently condemn the targeting of journalists and members of the press by the Portland Police, and we demand that their charges are dropped along with the charges of all others who have been arrested throughout the course of the George Floyd uprising. We reject the gaslighting and attacks by liberal gatekeepers that claim the looter and the rock-thrower are hurting the “movement.”
We are not tired, we are pissed – and we are just getting started.
We have provided a PDF for download of our zine on the Portland Police Association, “Porkland Mafia.”
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