My neighborhood (South Waterfront) is populated by a number of high rise condo and apartment towers, some small, family owned businesses, a charter school, and the Portland location of ICE (the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency). The neighbors, in total NIMBY fashion, objected to putting ICE here a few years ago, but under federal supremacy the Feds do not need local approval and went ahead and put it here anyway. It was hardly noticed until the Trump administration started separating children from their parents with no plan or program for re-uniting them. Indeed, many children remain separated from their families to this day. This was nothing less than a war crime (since the President characterized the immigrants as an invaders, that is an appropriate appellation and not polemic), and the Portland Protest Class rose to the occasion and protested that for weeks and months. At some point, between the protestors needing to go back to school or their jobs, and the patience of the police class wearing thin, that protest ended.
George Floyd’s murder in May led to justifiable protests across the country. Over 70% of the country supports the movement for racial justice. While there is a struggle to determine how to convert the goal of racial justice to specific policies to achieve that, the groundwork is being laid.
Now, Portland is famous for three things. First our airport, routinely rated the best in the country. Second, our bike-friendliness. Third, our protestors. And when there is something to protest, our world-class protestors will not be out-lasted or out-done by any other group anywhere.
True to form, our George Floyd protests started early and often. We have now had almost three months of continuous daily protests. Sadly, the protests are becoming as notable for their violence as for the cause which inspired them. Even the head of the local NAACP has pleaded “As the demonstrations continue every night in Portland, many people with their own agendas are co-opting, and distracting attention from, what should be our central concern: the Black Lives Matter movement.”
So I can imagine the conversation that might have occurred last week among the protest dis-organizers (since there is no avowed organization):
“What do you want to do tonight, Marty?”
“I dunno. What do you want to do?”
“You wanna to go protest downtown again?”
“Nahh, we’ve done that the last 84 days.”
“Go try to burn down the Police Bureau?”
“Nahh, we did that last night.”
“I know. Let’s go protest ICE!”
“Yeah, that’s the ticket!”
I get the sense that it has become a protest in search of something to protest. It certainly isn’t about seeking racial justice. That train switched tracks from protest to working affirmatively for improvement months ago. The Portland Protest Class apparently did not get the memo.
So last week, while my wife and I headed to the Oregon Wine Country for some long-overdue R&R (and W), the protest transformed from a George Floyd/Racial Injustice protest, to a child-separation/ICE/Immigration protest.
On my return, I took a walk around the neighborhood. ICE is now boarded up.
No problem, no one ever noticed they were there anyway. And what do they need windows for?
The charter school next door has engaged in their own protest for months now, and their signs no doubt provided a defensive measure against vandalism (though I do not mean to demean their efforts which were genuine and pre-dated all protests in the neighborhood).
Local business owners, out of sincerity or self-protection or both, did the same.
One business across the street from ICE, a vintage decor store, did not get the memo, and this was the result:
At one point the protest must have ambled over to my building three or four blocks from ICE because this graffiti was on the road in front of it:
and I am told that this it what is left of a picnic table, swiped from a Vietnamese restaurant in our building, and burned to chards (the entire meaning of which vandalism completely escapes me):
By now, Trump is thrilled. The Portland Protest Class, rather than advancing the interest of racial justice, has has distracted from it and provided all the footage that Trump’s campaign could have dreamed of.
A letter to the editor in the Portland Oregonian Sunday from a writer in Kentucky beseeched the protestors to back off. The Republicans there are now running ads non-stop of the Portland protests with warnings that this will befall Kentucky too if Biden wins. You can call BS all day long, but the damage is being done, and being done by the same protestors who absolutely hate Trump.
To everything there is a season. The season for violent protest is over. The season for rolling up your sleeves to actually do the work of restoring justice to all, has begun. So protestors with a proclivity toward doing violence and causing destruction, please go home, clean your rooms, and start doing the work.
[Health update: to those avid readers who have suffered reading along this far solely to know the latest on my health: The PetScan determined that I no longer have cancer anywhere south of my eyeballs. Unfortunately, something lit up on the PetScan in the area of my brain, so I will be having a brain MRI this Thursday. No one on the medical team is particularly worried, since it’s not their brain after all, and also since PetScans are notorious for giving false positives in the brain area. A further update will follow after the MRI results are in.]
6 thoughts on “Update from the Portland War Zone”
The anarchists and vandals have obviously hijacked legitimate protests. This ill-serves the causes espoused by the vast majority, but the tiny minority cares not. In fact this anomaly serves their cause, which is to tear down and destroy rather than build. We are all the poorer for it. Sad, sad, sad.
Here’s hoping the MRI’s negative, Ken. I’ll be thinking of you.
Great piece, but most importantly praying for a good outcome on Thursday, Ken.
Thanks again for “boots on the ground” update from Portland. For me it is helpful to hear/see a personal and I believe honest report from the ground level. I have met a few people recently who have expressed concern over the “explosive” situation in Portland. I politely explain that a trusted individual lives in the area of protests and has represented an authentic picture of what is actually happening, not what the media is blowing out of proportion with regards to protests and destruction. Pictures are worth a 1000 words and yours help me see that while it’s not a “war zone” there is selective defacing and destruction.
I will be thinking of you this Thursday with scheduled brain PET scan . . . technology today has become increasingly sensitive and able to detect things that may not even be there. Will pray and hope for the best.
Dear brother-of-my-friend-Shirley, I am so thankful for your writing!! Especially since I’m really getting tired of TV reports from your city and the problem being magnified by Rep. ads and so on. You’re helping to shed light on the situation, and it’s good to know that it’s considerably less dramatic than media would have you think. The other day I was talking to a friend who complained about all the violence in the name of protest, and I was thinking about what you call The Portland Protest Class. I’m wondering, not knowing how long you have lived in Portland, if you happen to know anything about the reason for this “protest class”? I’d love to hear it. What types of people have the time and the interest for so much protest?? Are they mostly young people? I looked up local universities, and there is an insanely long list of those, many specialized (at least 2 Christian ones)! For a city of that size it seems disproportionate….Continuing to check the Internet to inform myself a little, I saw a couple of interesting things: nowadays “Portland is best known for hipster and crunchy behavior” (!). (It also has the highest number of strip clubs per capita in the US.) So it seems there is a kind of leftist culture, which might explain the protest class….? But I’m still wondering where its people come from – unless it’s quite simply all these students going bezerk…. Coming from Sweden myself, I’m often baffled when observing what happens in this country, but this Portland thing is especially baffling. I wonder, can something be done about it? May God have mercy on us all in this election confusion! I must confess I sometimes wish I was back in peaceful Sweden, but of course that will never be the case, so I’d better suck it up and live one day at the time, closely following the news. Thanks again for your blog (I did read the latest of Sept 13), and if you have the time I’d love to know more about your worthy city from your perspective! Christina Lumeya
Wow, totally missed this back in 2020. Sorry about that. Two plus years later let me address: Portland is definitely on the progessive side – proudly so. However, peope who gather together every night starting at 10 or 11pm or later to hassle the police, toss incendiary devises, and try to set fires in buildings are not liberal, progressive, conservative or anything else other than vandals and criminals. My honest guess is that it was the same 50 or so people every night who were young, bored, tired of the pandemic (weren’t we all), and needed a social outlet. This sufficed until the bars opened again. Fortunately, the bars re-opened, and we have not seen the nightly raucous (even riotous) behavior since then. The 50+ rioters have gone back home, cleaned up their rooms,. gotten jobs, mabye even gotten married and had kids. Raising a baby, or even just having a brew with buddies, is just not compatibile with nightly anarchy. So all is quiet on the Portland front. The reputational damage done by these Visigoths, however, continues and will cause lasting damage. Rest assured, the City has finally figured it out, the police are back at work, the streets and sidewalks are getting cleaned up, homeless people are finally being given the option to stay in a safe place at night, and though Portland will never be what Portland was (what city following covid is?), it is definelty time for another visit. See you soon!