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Activists suspect ride participant is an undercover Portland Police Bureau captain – UPDATED

Posted by on April 1st, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Krisapon Chaisawat
(Facebook profile)

Note from the publisher, 6:14 pm: This story was originally posted described a situation wherein attendees at a ride on Sunday believed they were accompanied by a Portland Police officer named Chris Uehara. After seeing photos of the officer and learning other similarities, I posted a story describing the situation and included quotes from ride participants who believed the man to be Captain Uehara.

I have since heard from the Portland Police that the man on ride was not Capt. Uehara.

In addition, I have also now confirmed that the man was indeed not Capt. Uehara but was instead a man named Krisapon Chaisawat (here’s his Facebook profile). Chaisawat (who goes by Kris) is a 35-year-old food server who lives in Portland and works in West Linn. He called me after his wife saw his photos on this site. He said he’s from Key West, Florida and just moved to Portland a few months ago. Chaisawat said he attended the event after hearing about it on BikePortland and just wanted to go on a ride and meet some people. About the story, he said, “I thought it was an April Fool’s joke.”

For what it’s worth, Chaisawat seemed very understanding of what happened and just wanted to clear things up. The Veloprovo folks feel bad about the error and have reached out to Kris with offers to connect, go on a ride, and/or buy him a drink or two.

I regret the misunderstanding. I went with my gut because I felt the story was worth publishing with the information I had. However, I published it without 100% confirmation about the man’s identity. That was a mistake. When I published it, I didn’t fully respect or appreciate how it might make people feel if I was wrong. For that I am deeply sorry.

As always, I have learned something from this situation and I will keep all of your feedback in mind and use it to inform my decisions going forward. Thank you for your understanding. – Jonathan

UPDATE, 4/3 9:45 am: Someone who was on the Veloprovo ride has posted their thoughts on this story: Radical Accountability vs. Security Culture: An Unconditional Apology for My Racism

UPDATE, 7/31/13 at 10:01 am: For everyone reading this story for the first time via a link from BikeSnob, you might be interested to know that I have met Chaisawat in person to talk about this situation. He was a bit surprised at all the fuss people made about it and he understood why/how the mistake was made. I also had a sit-down meeting with Officer Uehara back in April. Read my recap of that meeting here.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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D
Guest
D

Of course he’s a cop. What cyclist would wear a Livestrong shirt anymore?

Hart Noecker
Guest
Elliot
Guest
Elliot

April Fools…?

9watts
Guest
9watts

“[he] didn’t speak with anyone and was filming everything”

I guess sometimes we can be glad the PPB isn’t so good with the training. Our tax dollars at work.

David
Guest
David

Unless he’s there on his own time which is possible. This seems about as clumsy as an attempt to be undercover as the Boston Police trying to break up DIY concerts using social media (http://www.spin.com/articles/boston-police-accused-catfishing-shut-down-local-diy-shows)

Nicholas Caleb
Guest

I hope that this is just the most uncanny resemblance of all time, but same name, look, same build, same voice — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBWvlg9A__Y — same glasses, filming people… I dunno PPB…

longgone
Guest
longgone

“Battle Mode”..Ha! Seems like a Livestrong motto a cop might wear. I will buy the first person to solve this mystery (for real), a case of their favorite local brew ! If that aint him, I will eat my shorts.

Tim
Guest
Tim

I would like to have an undercover cop join me for a ride. Maybe he could document illegal activity by drivers. You could try inviting the police to ride along, but if you did that they would probably loose all interest.

Paul Tay
Guest
Paul Tay

How to do copwatch, without really trying. http://www.pivothead.com/

SilkySlim
Guest

This is clearly a case of twins separated at birth. One got all of the authority genes (Cpt. Euhara), the other, all the anti-establishment genes (Mystery Protester Euhara). This is all clearly explained in the movie Twins, and to a lesser extent, Multiplicity.

Hart Noecker
Guest

Update, the man on the ride is not the officer. They share an uncanny resemblance and name and apparently the same pair of glasses, but he is NOT same person.

Teresa Roberts
Guest

Glad to hear it was just a case of mistaken identify, but Portland citizens have every reason to be suspicious, as City Council publicly aired their consternation during the 3-27-13 council session that the FBI operates in PDX with impunity, breaking our JTTF agreement by not sharing promised information — tho they only share it with non-council members — as in City Council just realized they no longer run the PPB — the FBI does.
See footage of council with time code sequence so you can jump to juicy parts or listen to your fave Occupier or Civil Rights Atty speak out (since NO ONE but Saltzman spoke in favor), posted at the email-campaign event on the website listed above.

maxadders
Guest
maxadders

No, you have to light a dumpster on fire or throw a brick at a bank if you want to get the PPB’s attention. You know, real constructive forms of protest. The kind that win hearts and minds. The kind that will surely change the mainstream public opinion about anarchists.

Chuck
Guest
Chuck

I guess they all look alike to some of you guys. Pretty telling on a couple levels. If you needed an example of why charges of racism were leveled during the N. Williams debate, you just got one.

cyclist
Guest
cyclist

Another example of why you should VERIFY before you publish Jonathan.

J_R
Guest
J_R

Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t out to get you.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

I found this post to be pure satire and I am almost certainly far to the left of any of the protagonists.

whyat
Guest
whyat

This story is embarrassing. If it’s not April fools it should be. Let’s get FACTS before we jump off the handle and post crap like this. No offense but really?

eastsider
Guest
eastsider

let’s cut jonathan some slack. he’s just reporting on what other people tell them. if jonathan would not have published this story, the man’s wife never would have seen the photos and people would continue to believe that an undercover officer was on the ride. so by putting the information out there that he was hearing, he was able to get to the truth. he also updated and corrected the story in a very timely manner. keep up the good work!

Chris Anderson
Guest

I was there. I wouldn’t have thought he was a cop. But then again I’d be just fine with cops who want to go on a bike tour of dangerous intersections, and help with some gardening. He didn’t talk much and was the first to leave, so I can imagine if you’ve been on the wrong side of the cops before you might wonder.

Hart Noecker
Guest

It’s time to cut Jon some slack. He wasn’t on the ride, but I was. I knew almost everyone there besides Kris. When he arrived, I shook his hand, gave him a sticker, and we introduced ourselves. He showed up at the last possible second before we left, which seemed a bit strange considering none of us knew him.

Having worked with other activists who have been beaten and arrested, I am very cautious of Portland law enforcement.

Kris didn’t say much on the ride, but took a lot of video. Regardless, I didn’t see any reason for alarm. It wasn’t until the next day that images of the police captain emerged wearing the exact same glasses, with the same abbreviated first name, and after an exhausting day of comparing dozens of photos trying to disprove the connection, enough people within the group as well as other journalists besides Jonathan felt the PPB was being dishonest, that the individual on the ride was in fact working as an undercover police officer.

I truly regret not trying harder to disprove this false conclusion. But human beings make mistakes, each and every one of us. And we have reached out to Kris to apologize for being wrong, and we will be coming together via beers and bicycles to make amends and hopefully new friends while building trust for one another where ever possible.

The direct action we took on Sunday was a huge success, but out of well-founded worry over being surveilled, we collectively made the wrong call when we truly thought we were right. I’ll freely admit that and take responsibility for this error.

Feel free to join us next Monday at 5:30pm as we use our bikes to build community and build new friendships: https://www.facebook.com/events/549677315063287/

swami
Guest
swami

Hart: That’s a nice follow up.
Jonathan: Tough call. The coincidences were remarkable. PPD’s response should have (did?) set off alarm bells. Lesson learned. Your contribution to the Portland area community is massive.

Hart Noecker
Guest

The full names of both individuals were not available at the time of publishing, and no decision was made based on this fact. The original article did not say with any certainty that the two people were in fact the same person, but acknowledged the questions of those on the ride while asking for more info from the public. Once that information was available, Jonathan updated the article accordingly. That is what any responsible human being would do.

was carless
Guest
was carless

Oh, white people. So paranoid its sad. 🙁

Chris Shaffer
Guest
Chris Shaffer

I don’t think Jonathan or anyone on the ride did anything wrong. The original article is still cached in the Google Reader RSS feed if anyone wants to read it. It clearly states that the connection wasn’t proven yet and was awaiting confirmation.

All of that said, I’m glad an apology was issued to Kris C. I’m a bit surprised an apology hasn’t been offered to Chris U as well.

Rob
Guest
Rob

Wow, this whole thing is a pretty sad affair. Sometimes we as a bike community do a whole lot of navel-gazing… Maybe this will open our eyes up a little and let us know there’s more to it than just us…

Ron G.
Guest
Ron G.

This story would have been so easy to verify–you already had the supposed officer’s name. Did you call the police?

Because it would have been so easy to confirm this one way or the other, I was convinced it was an April Fool’s joke. It was just too much sloppy innuendo to be real. The funny thing is, I figured the rider was the cop, but he was just a friend of the group who was in on the joke.

I’m glad to see this has made you a convert to verification.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

NOTE: These comments were closed for several hours on Tuesday (3/2) morning. I’ve decided to re-open them because many people have told me they have more to say about this story. Thanks for understanding.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

I erased the entire original story to minimize confusion and to give the people involved a break. However, I feel the context and the way I reported the story is important to fully understanding what happened here so I’ve decided to paste the text of the story as it originally appeared below:

Activists suspect ride participant is an undercover Portland Police Bureau captain – UPDATED

Participants in the Veloprovo launch ride Sunday believe the man in the yellow shirt in the back left is Portland Police Bureau Cpt. Chris Uehara.
(Photos: Nicholas Caleb)

UPDATE: A PPB spokesperson says Cpt. Uehara was not at these rides. See full update below.

Participants in an organized bike ride this weekend say they were accompanied by an undercover Portland Police Captain named Chris Uehara. Photos of who they suspect to be Cpt. Uehara attending the “Veloprovo” ride on Sunday surfaced on Facebook this morning. In the photos a man wearing a yellow Livestrong t-shirt, fitness pants and bike-specific shoes can be clearly seen standing next to a road bike, listening to speakers before the ride, and raising his fist in a group photo.

Photo on the left from a ride yesterday. On the ride is Cpt. Uehara at a Portland Public Schools event in 2012.

The same man appears in a photo of the Tar Sands protest ride last month which was organized by the same group of activists. The group behind these rides has ties to the PDX Bike Swarm that coalesced during Occupy Portland. As we’ve been reporting, the group does not hide the fact that their brand of advocacy is more radical and aggressive than anything that currently exists in Portland.

Photo from Tar Sands protest ride shows same man who was at the Veloprovo ride and whom participants think is Cpt. Chris Uehara.

The man in these photos appears to be the same man wearing a PPB uniform and identified as Cpt. Chris Uehara in a Portland Public Schools video from September 2012. Tracy Mattner was on the Veloprovo ride Sunday. She spoke to the man and is sure it’s Cpt. Uehara. “I spoke to Officer Uehara, who identified himself by his real first name, Chris.” she shared via email today. “He did not identify himself as an officer, but claimed to be a bicycle activist and enthusiast. When I asked how he heard about the event, he simply said he was at the “Tar Sands Ride.” Later, during group introductions, he stated that he had sold his car to buy the brand new bike he was riding.”

Another person on the ride, Nicholas Caleb, says having an undercover officer on the ride is a sign that we live in a “police state.” Caleb says the group has publicized everything they’ve done, held public meetings, videotaped their speeches, and so on. “You’d think when you do that, there’s no way you’d be the target of police surveillance.” “It’s scary,” he added, “But, we’re going to keep going forward with our positive ideas and creative energy.” Caleb said the man he suspects of being Cpt. Uehara was suspicious because he had all brand new “stereotypical biker gear,” didn’t speak with anyone and was filming everything. It’s worth remembering that the Portland Police has a history of secretly monitoring bicycle-based activism.

According to research by documentary filmmaker and publisher Joe Biel, the Portland Police Bureau once labeled critical mass participants as “anarchists” and sent undercover officers to critical mass meetings and rides. During research for his book, Bi Pedal, By Pedal! and his documentary film, Aftermass: A post-Critical Mass Portland, Biel unearthed police documents that proved this to be the case. The PPB not only attended critical mass meetings and rides, but Biel asserts they also created false narratives by embellishing reports and even instigated hostile actions during the ride. Reached today for comment about this recently alleged undercover action, Biel said, “I think the very nature of activities that push a change in culture threaten police training to the very core and demonstrate that the institution of policing exists to protect the status quo until political will is ready to push it over the brim.” Last year Mayor Charlie Hales (interviewed prior to being elected) told Biel during an interview that he opposed the police presence at Critical Mass. “What I was concerned about was the fact that the police thought this was even a big deal at all,” said Hales, “I thought, hey, these are just some people riding bikes… why don’t we just leave these folks alone?”

I’ve contacted the PPB Public Information Officer Lt. Michael Marshman for comment and I hope to hear back soon. UPDATE, 4:32 pm: The PPB says Cpt. Uehara was not at the event on Sunday. Below is full statement from PIO:

“I spoke with Capt. Uehara. He was not at the event on Sunday. He was with his family all day. I saw the photo of the man in the yellow shirt. That is definitely not Capt. Uehara. No, there were no undercover officers at the “Veloprovo” ride this Sunday.”

Esther
Guest
Esther

Jonathan, I really value your re-posting the original story and re-opening comments after your initial decision to close them, based on input from other people. I hope we can continue to have a productive and listening dialogue.

Todd Hudson
Guest
Todd Hudson

I am disappointed that Bike Portland chose to further publicize this group’s public accusation. Sorry, Veloprovo, you are not that important.

Also, I don’t like that Jonathon chose to publicize an activist group that uses Critical Mass -like tactics. That group is universally reviled. These tactics do not deserve any publicity. Furthermore, the name of the group implies they are trolling for a harsh police response. We are the most bike-friendly city in the country, and I’d like to keep it that way. Fomenting MORE antagonism between cars & bikes and between cyclists & police is counterproductive. I need fewer people thinking I’m an asshole for riding my bike, not more.

Aaronf
Guest
Aaronf

More broadly about Veloprovo’s stated mission:

I remember attending a huge critical mass in 01 or 02 and watching the cool anarchists run out of the crowd to spraypaint “elf.” These weren’t police provocateurs, they were guys who came to all the crusty house shows.

I was particularly ashamed of us when a guy slashed a car tire at sandy and burnside. He held up his knife and nobody did anything. Offending car was a guy who revved his engine until it overheated. Nobody had a chance to tell his corking is for everyone’s safety.

I’m just saying, the police weren’t interested in CM for no reason. If all your meetings are public, do the police really even have to identify themselves if they attend a ride?

longgone
Guest
longgone

Sad to see you pulled the comments on this. I owe someone some beer! Who ever broke the truth is owed, so let me know. Speaking for myself, I have a mild loathing for police in general. It is not uncommon for these type of actions to be employed by undercover officers. I find it amazing that people forget so quickly after the Occupy movements last year, how the police in Portland and many other cities were sussed out on this exact type of surveilance. If in fact anyone was offended by my comment, I would like them to accept my appology. I certainly do not believe your coverage was racist in anyway, and if it didnt come to name calling, it is kinda weak to turn off the comments. These two men do infact favor each other in an uncanny fashion. To fall victim to that assumption, is embarrasing, but not inheirently racist. I still cannot get over the fact that they look so much alike! If you meet the man Kris, on the Veloprovo ride, please tell him that I mistakenly took him for a cop, in a picture, on a blog,with no proof of that! And by the way, I am a white male with only one Asian friend, sadly enough! Peace.

Jim F.
Guest
Jim F.

Lighten the f%#@ up people. Seriously. Relax. Jonathan does a hell of a job with this website, which we all access for free (and should appreciate). Things happen sometimes. It is great that Jonathan owns it when they do — I would not be as patient as he is in addressing ridiculous comments. Stop visiting this website if you don’t like how things are done. Move on. (Oh, and those two pictures DO look like the same person).

Aaronf
Guest
Aaronf

Why didn’t someone ask him in person? Non confrontational when it’s 1 on 1 and not the swarm?

Laura
Guest
Laura

So, what if it HAD been Captain Uehara, off duty, going on the rides (Tar Sands and Veloprovo) because he believed in the cause? Is there really something wrong with a police captain acting as a citizen and wanting to rally for livability?

D
Guest
D

In defense of Jonathan, he made an editorial error, not a racist one.

I get the sense that had the two men been white, black, or any other race or ethnicity and looked similar, he still would have run the story.

If there are issues of race in the story, it may be with Veloprovo, who assumed that a guy who doesn’t look like anyone in the group but who looks like a cop must be up to no good.

I think accusing Jon of racism is too much here.

ws
Guest
ws

Are cops not welcome on activist events such as this? Besides the mistaken identity gaffe, there seems to be some tacit approval by some in reagards to this. Any off duty in plain clothes must be undercover?

tnash
Guest
tnash

wow. an activist cycling group commits the racist “they all look the same to me” faux pas. What a truly Portlandia moment. Please keep them coming ROFL

Skid
Guest
Skid

Sorry but the dude does sort of have the look of an undercover cop trying to blend in but totally missing the mark. And never mind PPB infiltration of CM, there is a history of undercover Police infiltration within countercultural movements. This is not being paranoid, this is seeing a history of behavior and drawing conclusions from it, which sounds an awful lot like Police training when you think about it. Any time you are doing something that functions outside of society you have to be wary of unknown newcomers, which really sucks when you are trying to be open and inclusive.

Chubster
Guest
Chubster

White guys at Occupy events have also been mistaken for undercover officers publicly and mistakenly. I remember seeing something on Twitter about that once. Give Maus a little credit for reporting it out and producing the police denial and the interview with the actual guy. Instead of leaving things there.

Lisa
Guest
Lisa

1. If veloprovo is worried enough about cops to stigmatize and alienate participants they don’t know, they shouldn’t have publicized their event so much, and they shouldn’t be posting pics of the faces of their participants all over the web.

2. Jonathan Maus, you of all people ought to be aware of the rap that the cycling community associated with this blog has for being racist and unaware of its white privilege. You of all people, if you want to remedy this, might try being more vigilant in giving a great deal of thought to what you publish here having to do with race and ethnicity. If you’re in doubt, don’t do it. Many people realize you enjoy jumping on any potential tidbit that wags its sensationalist tail in front of your face, but that hurts people needlessly.

I won’t presume to speak for Krisapon Chaisawat, but people in communities of color are hurt generally by actions like this. Racist stigma works individually and socially to harm people of color in so many ways.

Everyone who’s working for progressive change is also hurt by this. Ignorant behavior like what happened here only works to alienate us from each other.

3. White people of Portland: Whites may not all look the same to you, but it’s obvious that for many of you, yes even in 2013, people of color are hard for you to differentiate from each other. Realize this, accept this disgusting and appalling flaw, and act accordingly.

In other words, think before you open your big mouths.

aaron
Guest
scott
Guest
scott

Borderline racist. Decidedly paranoid and self-important.

Tony Carpenter
Guest
Tony Carpenter

I think more than anything this gave an activist group a taste of the challenge some law enforcement folks face every day. Police don’t know if someone (a suspect) is a threat or not. They run into this on a daily basis in their job… it’s difficult to determine the level of potential threat someone might, does not or does pose. They (police) are not perfect. In this instance an activist was labeled by his peers to be an undercover cop and a prime example of the police state we live in because his bike/gear were new and they didn’t know him. They vetted him thoroughly..asking him how he heard about the event. ‘ at the previous event’ where there is a photo of him. Information we have now but time at time of original publication.

The the story and or debate/discussion that ensued and how it was handled may have ruffled some feathers of others. People like to assign blame if they feel there’s an injustice. Others will defend their position if they feel they’ve done no injustice or actions are justified for the greater good. You’re all correct.

To recap…
‘Undercover cop’ was fellow activist not a cop.
Mistaken identity.
Veloprovo hypersenstive to presence of authority whether present or not.
PPD not present and accused Police Capt was with family all day.
Jon is not a traditional journalist but admits he could have taken more steps to verify some data prior to publication.
People are defensive and sensitive to certain issues…racism, biking, driving, law enforcement, police state, journalism.

Racism folks: if you agree or not have a point about how it could be considered racists. Reporting on the story w/o due diligence to verify facts isn’t racism but could promote someone else’s bias whether intentional or not.

Journalism: A reporter generally puts a lot of work into a story. Maus has a voice and a following. I think it’s natural and instinctual to defend one’s work. I believe the greater the voice the greater the responsibility to hold yourself to a high standard. There may have been better or more diplomatic ways Maus could’ve handled the feedback/commentary but I don’t think he’s hiding behind anything.

Veloprovo: I’m still not sure what they were protesting. They don’t trust police though.
Police: have better things to do than go undercover on Easter Sunday to a protest ride. No one is apologizing to them. (I believe this creates a unique opportunity for Capt. Chris Uehara…to now go undercover and infiltrate the group posing as Kris C.)

Cyclists viewed as aholes (as one commenter put it)… to drivers cyclists can be frustrating and require a little extra patience. Cyclists usually lose when a driver makes a mistake. Cyclists die. I believe what driver’s need is more awareness, patience and understanding. I didn’t ‘get it’ until I road my bike on busy streets. If your actions are testing the patience of a driver it might create awareness for your cause but it can also frustrate them so that next time they won’t be patient. Right or wrong someone could get hurt. It’s usually not the ahole driver or ahole cyclist. It’s usually when someone made an honest mistake (like mistaken identity) that the innocent are hurt or look foolish.

I wish everyone well. If you feel passionate about something do what you feel you gotta do. Just hold yourself to the same standard you’re expecting of others. While you might be right imagine for a moment that you’re wrong. What it does to your credibility if you are wrong. Then find out how you can be certain. We’re still in war because ‘we’ were ‘certain’ of WMDs in Iraq. Jordan quit basketball because he was certain he wanted to be a baseball player. OAK was certain JaMarcus Russell was starting QB material. Banks were certain that there was no housing/mortgage bubble.

I didn’t realize I had this much to say. Sorry for rambling.

L
Guest
L

I don’t understand the “Jonathan is not a traditional journalist” bit. It’s 2013 all journalists work on multiple platforms these days. He’s either a journalist or he isn’t. But let’s let go of the idea of “traditional journalism” whatever that is…and for pete’s sake Jonathan of all people should stop using it as a defense/explanation/identifier.

Leah
Guest
Leah

This makes me embarassed to be part of Portland’s bicycling community. As human beings, we are all fallible; I do not fault you for making a mistake (albeit a huge and irresponsible one). I do, however, fault you for your complete inability to practice self-reflection and admit that you were wrong and that race was an issue in this situation, instead opting to attempt to place the blame on anyone else available and choosing to meet your critics’ comments with immature and vitriolic attempts at justification. This situation represents most everything that is wrong with Portland’s “inclusive” bicycle culture. You’ve lost my respect, Mr. Maus.

B
Guest
B

I don’t think it is racism, but it is a reflection on the lack of diversity that affects Portland as a whole and the hipster and bicycle scene in particular, and how it negatively impacts and limits people’s perception of the world around it. It also reflects the false sense of self-importance of these activists, perhaps believing to be more radical than they actually are, which is implied in the whole Provos reference – radical in 60’s Amsterdam, not necessarily in 2010 in the most bike-friendly city that there is.

Michael Andersen (Contributor)
Guest

For whatever it’s worth, the two men did look similar to me in the posted photos, and I wouldn’t have been shocked if they had turned out to be the same person.

Equally important, IMO: my own whiteness, and the fact that I spend most though not all of my time interacting with other white people, is definitely a factor in this snap judgment.

I’ll echo the sentiments of many that Kris (and Chris) are welcome members of my community and should feel that way at any ride I might be on.

Barney
Guest
Barney

Willamette Week sez:

“Bike Portland Alleges Wrong Asian Man is Undercover Cop”.

They seem to think that journalists should be more responsible.

http://www.wweek.com/portland/blog-29975-bike_portland_alleges_wrong_asian_man_as_undcover_cop.html