While I’d have loved to come to you this morning with some good news out of Portland, Oregon, I’m afraid that there isn’t much in that category to be found. The situation on the streets there continued to deteriorate last night, with rioters once again attempting to seize control of public property, both state and federal, eventually setting fire to the Portland Police Association building. The federal building in downtown Portland was similarly attacked, with rioters tearing down barricades that were constructed to prevent the mob from overwhelming the facility. In response, as shown in one of the more underwhelming headlines to be seen at CNN in recent memory, the police “asked the protesters to leave” or face possible arrest. Presumably, they are still acting under the direction of Mayor Ted Wheeler. (CNN)
Authorities asked protesters near the Portland Police Association office to leave Saturday night or risk arrest.
“This event has been declared a riot. Move to the east now. If you do not move to the east you will be subject to arrest or use of force to include crowd control munitions. Leave the area now,” the Portland Police Bureau tweeted. It said protesters broke into the Portland Police Association office and set it on fire.
In a separate protest near the federal building downtown, protesters could be seen dismantling a heavy metal fence set up around the building earlier as a barricade.
Shouting “this event has been declared a riot” through a bullhorn while standing outside the Portland Police Association building as it’s going up in flames is somewhat reminiscent of Kevin Bacon’s character Chip Diller in Animal House shouting “all is well” shortly before the mob flattens him into the sidewalk. By the time the events of the evening have reached that stage, it’s probably a bit late to be politely asking people if they wouldn’t mind just going home.
There’s also a very large element of “Blame it All on Trump” in most of these events. As recently as Friday night, federal authorities from multiple agencies were out on the streets working in cooperation with the police to restore order. Then the media got hold of some footage of federal agents arresting some of the rioters for assaulting them and damaging federal property. So how did Mayor Wheeler respond? By demanding that the federal officers be withdrawn and having the police announce that federal agents would no longer be welcome to use their command center. In other words, Wheeler immediately took a knee and sided with the rioters over federal law enforcement agents.
Of course, none of this is actually Wheeler’s decision to make and he doesn’t have the final say in the matter. As with any other city, there are federal offices and agencies in Portland and the government has not only the right but the responsibility to ensure that their facilities are protected and their employees are kept safe. The CBP responded to CNN in a statement saying that “the willful intent to damage and destroy federal property, as well as, injure federal officers and agents are criminal actions and will not be tolerated.”
Caught in the middle of this tug-of-war are both the Portland Police themselves and all of the citizens who are not running wild and trying to burn the city down. The cops are supposed to follow the directives of Mayor Wheeler and his police chief, but that’s got to be a heavy burden to carry when you’ve taken an oath to protect and serve the public. Being told to fall back and stand down as vandals and rioters wreck your city is surely a hard pill to swallow. And the law-abiding citizens of the city must feel somewhat abandoned in all of this.
As for the cops themselves, John talked about what it’s like to be a Black police officer in Portland during all of this madness. It’s not a pretty picture. One Black police officer described being assaulted with beer cans, frozen water bottles and fireworks. He talked about how every time any Black residents try to engage him in conversation during the protests, some white rioter inevitably shouts him down so the conversation can’t continue. It’s very ugly out there on the streets.
Not long after the events described above unfolded, someone detonated a pyrotechnic charge in the lobby of the federal building. Only blocks away, Mayor Ted Wheeler was telling reporters that he “demanded” that Donald Trump pull all federal troops out of the city because that’s “not the America we want.” I would compare this to some sort of Fellini movie, but even Fellini never dreamed up anything this bizarre.