Posted on July 15, 2020

Chaotic Protests Prompt Soul-Searching in Portland, Oregon

Gillian Flaccus, Associated Press, July 15, 2020

Nearly two months of nightly protests that have devolved into violent clashes with police have prompted soul-searching in Portland, Oregon, a city that prides itself on its progressive reputation but is increasingly polarized over how to handle the unrest.

President Donald Trump recently deployed federal agents to “quell” the demonstrations in Portland that began after George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police, shining an unwelcome spotlight as the city struggles to find a way forward. The national attention comes as divisions deepen among elected officials about the legitimacy of the more violent protests — striking at the heart of Portland’s identity as an ultraliberal haven where protest is seen as a badge of honor.

“I was born and raised here, and I’m a graduate of the local public school system. I chose to make my livelihood here, I chose to raise my daughter here,” said Mayor Ted Wheeler, who has faced criticism from all sides. “And in all the years that I have lived here, I have never seen the community more divided. Nor have I seen it look worse.”

Small groups of protesters have set fires, launched fireworks and sprayed graffiti on public buildings, including police precincts and the federal courthouse, leading to nearly nightly clashes with police who have used force that’s caused injuries. Similar unrest engulfed many U.S. cities when Floyd died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee to his neck on May 25. But in Portland, which is familiar ground for the loosely organized, far-left activists known as “antifa,” or anti-fascists, the protests never stopped.

Lost in the debate are the downtown businesses racking up millions in property damage and lost sales {snip}


{snip} Federal law enforcement officers sent in two weeks ago by Trump to stop the unrest have further inflamed tensions {snip}


Some members of the Black community, which makes up less than 6% of Portland’s population, say the continual clashes with police — including in a historically Black part of the city — are distracting from the message of racial justice.