After Monday’s peaceful protest, even more people took to the streets last night to march against racism and policy brutality.
While the protest was largely peaceful for many hours, there were several instances of more aggressive actions. Reporters documented the Portland Police firing tear gas and flash-bangs into peaceful crowds indiscriminately, causing shock and horror at the conduct of officers and anger at Mayor Ted Wheeler.
One incident in particular illustrated how the tension in these protests often stems from one central question: Who controls the streets?
This was the clip that made @LauralPorter & me gasp on live TV.
We saw people moving barricades & equipment around Pioneer Square… when a police SUV came speeding through. Ppl ran out of the way.
— Maggie Vespa KGW (@Maggie_Vespa) June 3, 2020
We’ve covered the alarming rise in vehicular violence before, but I never thought I’d see it from our own police force.
A KGW-TV camera captured video of people moving road closure barricades at SW 6th and Yamhill adjacent to Pioneer Courthouse Square (see Tweet above). With several people still in the street, the video shows four Portland Police SUVs being driven through the intersection in a reckless manner. It’s unclear what the intention of the officers was, but their dangerous actions could have easily killed or hurt someone.
In a press conference this morning PPB Chief Jami Resch mentioned how someone driving a pick-up truck allegedly reversed into PPB officers. “Thankfully no one was hurt,” she said. But Chief Resch’s tone was much more sterile when it came to her own officers using their vehicles to intimidate protestors.
At the end of her prepared remarks, Chief Resch said, “I will not let the actions of a few individuals intent on causing violence turn this focus on the Portland Police Bureau. A group of individuals broke away from a peaceful protest and marched blocks specifically to encounter PPB members at barricades. The PPB did not instigate the violence that began in our city last night.”
How can we trust that officers will hold aggressive car drivers accountable and adhere to our city’s Vision Zero goals when they use their own vehicles like this?
In a Q & A session Chief Resch said she doesn’t know exactly why officers drove through the intersection but that the incident is under investigation.
Resch also said, “Our officers are doing everything they can within their power to respect and protect peaceful demonstrators.” These statements do no match up with the videos, images, and live reporting from journalists we followed during the protest.
Chief Resch also said every use of force will be reviewed and investigated. We demand a clear explanation from the Chief and Mayor Wheeler about why these officers drove their SUVs in a menacing way toward people in the street.
These efforts to exert power and dominance over protestors on our public streets is absolutely unacceptable. How can we trust that officers will hold aggressive car drivers accountable and adhere to our city’s Vision Zero goals when they use their own vehicles like this? Chief Resch’s blanket denial of responsibility about who instigated the violence sounds like it’s coming from a kid brought into the principal’s office after a schoolyard fight. The PPB must stop pointing fingers. PPB officers are the ones in battle gear. They have all the power. They must resist escalation.
Mayor Wheeler said this morning that he’s ordered a review of police training to “make sure it aligns with our values”. It doesn’t. Aggressively driving an SUV = into an intersection where defenseless Portlanders were standing is completely out of line. We expect immediate changes and reforms to make demonstrations safe for everyone.
“Whose streets? Our streets!”
UPDATE, 1:18 pm: Official PPB statement (in tweet below) says officers believed protestors were about to start a big fire with the barricades.
— Alex Zielinski (@alex_zee) June 3, 2020
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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