Family and supporters of Patrick Kimmons, a 27-year-old black man shot by Portland Police last month, protested outside the Multnomah County Courthouse today. They were responding to a grand jury’s decision to not indict the officers who shot him.
The protest took place on SW 4th Avenue and, according to the Portland Police Bureau, responding officers urged people to get onto the sidewalk. As they addressed the scene, a 55-year-old man purposely drove into them. Here’s the police statement:
“The officers contacted the demonstrators and requested they move off the roadway and onto the sidewalk; however, the group remained on the roadway, blocking vehicle traffic. As officers developed a plan to divert traffic, officers continued to request the protestors move to the sidewalk. While officers continued to communicate with the crowd and direct them to the sidewalk, the driver of a dark blue Chevrolet 2500 pick-up traveled north on Southwest 4th Avenue into the crowd of people and struck a protester. The protester did not require medical treatment.
Officers located and stopped the Chevrolet truck and driver near the intersection of Southwest 3rd Avenue and Southwest Madison Street. The driver was taken into custody without incident.”
The driver, Mark Dickerson, was put in jail and faces charges of Assault in the Fourth Degree, Reckless Endangering, and Reckless Driving.
I’m not close to the Patrick Kimmons case; but I approach this from a transportation/safe streets journalism and advocacy perspective. What happened today should not be seen as separate from the growing rhetoric around protestors and their use of the streets.
Earlier this month the story about protestors who yelled at and damaged the car of a man who tried to drive around them went viral. The story became fodder for the national narrative of divisiveness and became a provocative example of “Antifa mobs” that had “taken over Portland streets.” This type of rhetoric plays into peoples’ existing political biases and their frustrations about not being able to freely drive wherever they want, whenever they want.
When you are in control of multi-ton steel vehicle with enough power to easily hurt or kill another person, it’s very easy for charged rhetoric to spill over into action.
Last week we reported on two local business owners who made public statements that running people over with cars was an acceptable behavior. When Portlander Mark Holzmann shared his story on his Facebook page about a bike rider who allegedly slashed his tires after a road rage incident, at least one of Holzmann’s friends replied in a comment that the bicycle rider was part of the “Antifa mob.”
This stuff is dangerous. In today’s emotional political climate where protests are common, older white men feel victimized by a rapidly changing society, and hate toward others feels like it’s at an all-time high, we can’t allow our streets to become even more dangerous because people think it’s justifiable to mow protestors down with their cars.
When I put a spotlight on the comments of those two business owners, some people said I should “relax” and “lighten up” and that it was “just a joke.”
As someone who attends street protests and uses our roads without the protection of a large steel box around me, I don’t think it’s funny at all.
I hope today’s incident doesn’t result in a crackdown on street protests and even more heavy-handed tactics from the PPB. The right for the public to assemble and air grievances should have a higher priority than the privilege of driving a large motorized vehicle through our streets.
Never miss a story. Sign-up for the daily BP Headlines email.
BikePortland needs your support.