Portland’s mayor and police commissioner on Monday defended the city’s strategy dealing with events that led to brawls and people exchanging gunfire on city streets.
Members of the right-wing Proud Boys and far-left Antifa gathered in Oregon’s largest city over the weekend and violence broke out.
The events culminated with at least two people exchanging gunshots on a city street, though no gunshot wounds were reported.
The violence unfolded after Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell said officers would not intervene.
“It’s not necessarily the best tactical approach to have officers wading into situations where groups are clashing with each other. I understand the optics of that, but we have to make tactical decisions that put us in a position where we’re likely to be successful in making an arrest or taking someone into custody,” he told reporters on Friday.
Only one person has been arrested so far, but Ted Wheeler, Portland’s mayor, is claiming that the policing strategy proved successful.
“With strategic planning and oversight, the Portland Police Bureau and I mitigated confrontation between the two events and minimized the impact of the weekend’s events to Portlanders. In the past, these same groups have clashed with extremely violent and destructive results. This time, violence was contained to the groups of people who chose to engage in violence toward each other. The community at large was not harmed and the broader public was protected. Property damage was minimal,” he said in a statement.
Officers monitored both events that took place, one in the heart of downtown and the other in northeast Portland, and were “ready to take action immediately if the situation worsened and life safety was jeopardized,” added Wheeler, a Democrat who also serves as police commissioner.
Journalists and locals were among those attacked by Antifa members, while both Antifa and Proud Boys members were captured assaulting people. Police officers were not visible during many of the assaults.
When gunshots were fired in the afternoon, though, officers did quickly respond and make an arrest. Officers are looking for at least one other person who was firing shots.
“We will continue working with our legal teams and all City bureaus to limit the impact of these gatherings to our community. We will continue to investigate criminal behavior and will press charges when possible. Hate is not, has not, and will never be welcome in our community. We will continue to work for the safety of all Portlanders and do what’s best for the city that we call home,” Wheeler concluded.
Lovell also addressed Sunday’s events, saying in a video statement that there were too many calls to respond to all of them, including the gunshots, an attempted kidnapping, and street racing events.
Others said they didn’t agree that the strategy was successful.
“When there isn’t rule of law, when law enforcement doesn’t intervene to protect public safety, it only reinforces the lawlessness and fear that anti-democratic groups thrive on,” Amy Herzfled-Copple, deputy director of programs and strategic initiatives at the Western States Center, a nonprofit extremism monitor, told The Oregonian.
“It’s unacceptable for there just to be hands off by the police, especially when neighborhoods are involved,” state Sen. Michael Dembrow, a Democrat, added to Oregon Public Broadcasting.