Residents of northeast Portland felt ‘abandoned’ by police during clashes
PORTLAND – For nearly 30 minutes, armed protesters from opposing groups – the far-right Proud Boys and far-left anti-fascists – clashed last weekend in the streets, shopping car parks and backyards. school in a diverse neighborhood in northeast Portland.
Cars attempted to drive on Sunday as fireworks exploded on the road and there were clashes between people wearing helmets and gas masks and armed with baseball bats, paintball guns and chemical spray.
The Portland Police Department was visibly missing.
Ahead of the skirmish, the latest in a saga of political conflict that has plagued the city for years, officials said people shouldn’t expect officers to try to intervene or separate the parties.
But the lack of intervention by law enforcement left residents feeling “terrified and abandoned” and local and state leaders frustrated, in addition to further damaging the image of the police office which struggled to keep up. find its place in the city.
“As soon as the fighting started and spread throughout the neighborhood, the police should have come in and arrested them,” said State Senator Michael Dembrow, a Democrat who represents a large part of the Parkrose community where the confrontation took place. “I heard from a number of residents of Parkrose who felt exposed and betrayed by the lack of police presence. They have every reason to feel like this.
Portland is no stranger to the various political groups fighting in the streets. Almost a year ago, a caravan of Donald Trump supporters passed through town and encountered counter-protesters. Quarrels broke out between the groups and a right-wing protester was shot and killed.
Ahead of last week’s protests, Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell said he took “legal restrictions” into account when responding to protests, with officers’ attendance history increasing tensions and the shortage of staff in the department.
The police force has 145 fewer officers than a year ago. In June, a team of 50 police officers, who were part of a specialized crowd control unit in Portland, Oregon, and responding to ongoing, often violent protests, resigned en masse after a member of the the team was charged with criminal charges.
Based on these factors, Lovell said he made the decision not to “place officers in an extremely dangerous position between groups of people who are highly motivated to clash.”
Far-left anti-fascists gathered at Portland’s Tom McCall Waterfront Park early Sunday afternoon, waving Black Lives Matter flags. About eight miles from an abandoned parking lot in the diverse community of Parkrose, the Proud Boys gathered and listened to speeches denouncing the anti-fascist movement and calling for the release of those arrested in the U.S. Capitol uprising on January 6 .
“I will say that the Proud Boys’ decision to side with Parkrose was reprehensible on several levels. They chose to stage their hateful rally outside of downtown, the usual site of protests and protests, and move it to one of the most racially and ethnically diverse neighborhoods in Portland, ”Dembrow said.
The clash between subassemblies of the two groups interrupted traffic around 4 p.m. on a busy thoroughfare in the Parkrose neighborhood and crept into commercial parking lots – forcing at least one gas station to close early – and on owned by Parkrose high school. At least one video, shared online by a Portland Tribune reporter, showed a family with young children running to their car to escape the clash.
After 30 minutes of fighting, the two camps separate on their own.
The Oregonian / Oregon Live reported that Portland Police were monitoring the fight from a plane. In addition, on Wednesday, the police had made only one arrest related to the clashes and demonstrations.
But, even when members of the group – many of whom officials say were from out of town or out of state – left the area, residents were shaken by the violent events.
Michael Lopes Serrao, Superintendent of the Parkrose School District, said he felt “heartbroken for the community” knowing that some of his students and their families were watching the violence from their homes. Community members found themselves picking up trash and leftover paint, glass and bear mace over the next few days, he said.
“It’s confusing and frustrating at best for many who live here. The people of East Portland have traditionally felt more ignored by the city in general, so I think that only exacerbates that concern, ”said Lopes Serrao. “Why would you ignore one of the areas of the city that has been historically underserved. If Portland is about fairness, then we should uplift this community and protect its vulnerability. “
The idea that the lack of police presence was damaging the already negative image of the department was reiterated by Michael Dreiling, professor of sociology at the University of Oregon.
“If the police force tries to manage their image, refusing to come forward and apply the law, when far-right extremists show up and incite violence, is not a good way to do it,” Dreiling said.
However, in the days following the clash, Mayor Ted Wheeler and Lovell said they supported the police office’s approach and said it “contained” the violence between the groups.
“With strategic planning and oversight, the Portland Police Office and I softened the confrontation between the two events,” Wheeler said. “And downplayed the impact of the weekend’s events on the Portlanders.”