Communities and residents in Portland are still struggling as the anti-police riots continue without much coverage from the mainstream media.
Portlanders who spoke to The Epoch Times anonymously (to avoid "woke" retaliation) all agreed that violence is becoming worse and is unacceptable. "There are brazen shootings and killings in broad daylight which did not happen before this past year," said a 44-year-old man who lives in a Portland suburb. "The violence is no longer limited to nights or certain neighborhoods."
Riots Continue Mostly UnnoticedAfter 60 days of left-wing violence following the George Floyd killing, federal agents were sent to Portland, Oregon in early July 2020. In addition to the nightly vandalizing of the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse, rioters had blocked exits and started a fire at the Portland Police Bureau's East Precinct building, started other fires, and perpetrated looting and vandalism.
According to Jason Dunn, U.S. Attorney, District of Colorado in Portland there was "widespread use of rocks, lasers, slingshots loaded with ball-bearings, explosives, and other methods to assault federal employees. There are also nightly attempts by rioters to storm federal buildings and destroy them."
Within two weeks of federal agent deployment after reports of arrest regularities, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler demanded that the agents leave the city or stay "in your own [federal] buildings." Gov. Kate Brown echoed the sentiments. Members of Congress also demanded that federal agents withdraw from Portland in a letter to then-Attorney General Barr and Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf.
Almost all national coverage of the Portland riots ended when federal agents withdrew in 2020, but the violent unrest has continued unabated and often unreported. For example, while most left-wing activists welcomed the Biden inauguration, Portland activists unveiled signs that read "WE DON'T WANT BIDEN—WE WANT REVENGE" and swarmed the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement facility throwing rocks, bottles, and a pepper-like spray from paintball guns. "At one point, the air was so thick with gas and smoke that it was difficult to see," reported Oregon Live. Demonstrators also smashed the windows of Oregon's Democratic Party headquarters.
Less than three months later, after the killing of Daunte Wright, a black man shot by police in a Minneapolis suburb in April, rioters set the headquarters of the Portland Police Association on fire. The symbolic building had been boarded up from major destruction during the 2020 violence and the association moved in early June.
In April, protesters attempted to set up a Seattle-style autonomous zone and smashed the windows of Portland businesses, the Oregon Historical Society (which was already vandalized in 2020 on an "Indigenous Day of Rage"), and even the First Christian Church that feeds the homeless. The indiscriminate actions moved Acting Chief Chris Davis to remark in a Portland Police Bureau statement that “our community has made it clear that it will not tolerate wanton violence and destruction.”
Who Are The Agitators?Less than six percent of Portland's population is black and the violent activists widely appear to be young, white, and associated with Antifa and following their own agenda. Both moderate blacks and whites are afraid to speak out, Portlanders told The Epoch Times, because of the charged atmosphere in which dissent is demonized. The violent activists do not represent the feelings of the majority.
"My black employees say, 'We want the police guarding our homes' and that the violent protestors do not speak for them," said a downtown Portland employer who spoke to The Epoch Times on the condition of anonymity because of the "Gestapo-like atmosphere that currently exists." "Friends of mine who survived civil wars in Southeast Asia and other places are especially aghast at the brazen violence that is tolerated in Portland and how criminals are emboldened. They spend one night in jail and are bailed out the next day!"
When asked why there seem to be few serious attempts to stop the violent demonstrators or unravel their funding, the employer said, "there is no political will. The mayor, district attorney, and governor serve the people who are not affected by the violence because they live in a bubble. People who are brown, yellow, red, and black are the most injured by the violence which is ironic when you consider the demonstrators' rhetoric."
Aftermath of Defunding the Police DepartmentIn June 2020, the Portland City Council, in response to anti-police activism, cut $18 million of the police budget, affecting units dedicated to schools, patrolling the public transit system, and investigating gun violence. The Epoch Times asked the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) whether the budget cuts combined with anti-police sentiment hamper law enforcement.
"Certainly it has made it more difficult for members of the Bureau," Sergeant Kevin Allen told The Epoch Times. "We believe the Youth Services Division (school resource officers) was a progressive program. Officers were a caring resource to students and frequently employed restorative justice principles to avoid arresting students. Likewise, we felt that having Portland officers in a dedicated Transit Police Department made the transit system safer. Our Traffic Division was dedicated to making our roads safer.
"That said, we work for the community and we will be the agency that the community wants. It's difficult now because due to budgets and staffing issues, our officers spend a lot of time explaining why their responses were delayed or why they can't engage in an investigation into a crime. Even the 'low level' crimes are important to the victim."
Brian Hunzeker, president of the Portland police union, indicted the cuts led to an increase in gun violence and slower police response times. "I would say look at the data that is in front of you," he said to city leaders in January. "You have reduced and taken away certain divisions of the police force that serve an integral role and you can see the data."
Similarly, Atlanta's police department investigated its highest number of homicides in 2020—157, up from 99 in 2019.
Since the George Floyd killing, over 100 officers have left the police force, with most citing lack of support from local leaders and budget cuts for the reason for leaving in their exit interviews, KATU reported.
"No question, morale is low at PPB, and we're losing a lot of dedicated sworn personnel," Allen said. "I think it's fair to say the unrest and the stress it places on officers and their families is a major factor. It's a huge challenge. In 2020, the Bureau had 55 retirements and 29 resignations of sworn personnel. So far in 2021, there have been 20 retirements and 5 resignations. So since July 2020, we have had 75 retirements and 54 resignations of sworn personnel (129 total)."
Local PoliticiansStatements from Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and even his career itself reflect the strange and contradictory times in the city. While nearly two-thirds of city voters viewed Wheeler negatively according to Fox News, he won reelection six months after the riots began, largely because his running opponent was seen as too extreme, said Portlanders who spoke to The Epoch Times. His opponent, Sarah Iannarone, an urban policy consultant, actually joined anti-police street protesters and encouraged violence. "Peaceful protests, in my opinion, might not necessarily be moving the conversation forward," she declared.
Wheeler denounced federal agents sent to Portland by President Donald Trump in July 2020 but also said of protestors who started a fire at the Portland Police Bureaus East Precinct building in August, "When you commit arson with an accelerant in an attempt to burn down a building that is occupied by people who you have intentionally trapped inside, you are not demonstrating, you are attempting to commit murder." Later that month demonstrators stormed Wheeler's personal residence and set fires, angry over his lack of police reform actions.
In August 2020, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt angered many when he announced that his office would not prosecute riot-related charges like interfering with a peace officer, second-degree disorderly conduct, and first and second-degree criminal trespass. Yet in June 2021, his office began to charge suspected Antifa rioters, indicating a possible reversal in prosecution policies.
Already, a grand jury has indicted a man accused of injuring a Portland Police Bureau sergeant by shining a high-powered laser into his eye during a protest—a tactic used by violent protestors. The laser was found in the man's back pocket and caused cardboard to burn when it was tested, said police. Many hope the prosecutions will curtail the violence and restore support for the Portland police.
"We all got into this work to help people, and it's difficult when we cannot do that," Allen said. "We just try to concentrate on the times that we can help. Portland still has many dedicated public servants wearing our uniform working every day and night."