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Opinion: Police chief and mayor’s handling of vehicular rampage sets a terrible precedent

Posted by on August 31st, 2020 at 11:27 am

Do Mayor Ted Wheeler and Police Chief Chuck Lovell think we’re just going to forget what happened over the weekend?

On Saturday afternoon, hundreds of people drove cars and trucks into downtown Portland with “Trump 2020” and USA flags flying high. As they powered through the streets, some of them sprayed bear mace and shot paintball guns indiscriminately on people in the street. In the clip above you can see drivers and huge trucks barreling through an intersection against a red light as people try to slow them down and/or scamper out of their way. Other clips showed a bicycle under the wheels of a car and a souped-up sedan driver who raced, full-throttle, through a busy street.

Amid this chaos a man was shot and killed on SW 3rd and Alder (and he might have survived if overly aggressive Portland Police officers didn’t shove away a medic who was administering first-aid).

The trucks were part of an un-permitted “Cruise Rally” whose organizers said it would be a parade to show support for Donald Trump. You have to be extremely naive and/or willfully ignorant to think this wouldn’t have ended like it did.

What’s just as shocking and scary as the criminal behavior of some participants was how the Portland Police Bureau failed to protect us from it. There were only a few arrests made and the PPB didn’t intervene strongly until after the caravan left. The official PPB statement offered only a very sanitized summary: “Pedestrians and vehicle occupants periodically exchanged words. At times fights broke out; there were some minor collisions.”

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This was nothing short of intentional vehicular assault on our public roads. These people used their vehicles as weapons to terrorize Portlanders and they faced no repercussions for doing so. After it was clear criminal acts were taking place, why didn’t PPB lay down a spike strip to stop the drivers? Or slash tires to disable the vehicles — like they’ve done so many times to vehicles that support nightly Black Lives Matter protests?

This was disparate policing on full display. White Trump supporters are treated with kid gloves while anti-facist, Black Lives Matter protestors are subdued by any means necessary.

The difference was clear to Metro Councilor Christine Lewis who said on Twitter, “How many nights have there been declared riots? Why no declared riot tonight? Because they came in cars and trucks?”

At a press conference the next day, Mayor Wheeler and Chief Lovell didn’t even mention specifics. Instead they both-sided the event with exclamations about how “we” have to “stop the violence”. There was no indignation about people spraying mace or attempting to run over innocent people. There was no “Enough is enough!” or accusations of “attempted murder” like Wheeler has directed toward Black Lives Matter protestors.

Asked if he had a plan in place prior to the truck caravan, Chief Lovell could only say, “We tried to take precautions to keep them out of the downtown area.” Asked if he had any strategy going forward, Wheeler dodged the question and deferred to Lovell. “I’m not sure how you can, operationally, prevent this,” Lovell answered, as he complained about having limited police resources. Asked why officers didn’t slash tires, Lovell said, “It’s not always feasible.”

These answers are not reassuring.

We’ve raised the alarm about intentional vehicular violence on this site for many years and Saturday night was the manifestation of our fears.

If Chief Lovell and Mayor Wheeler can’t protect us from these armed, out-of-town, roving marauders in massive, lifted 4x4s they are not fit to do their jobs.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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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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Fred
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Fred

Thanks, JM, for writing about a transportation issue that has bothered many of us. Our city and regional police forces failed to protect us on Saturday. There are probably many reasons (lack of resources, general incompetence, cowardice, etc) but The Big One – preferential treatment given to heavily armed white men – stands out.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

“(and he might have survived if overly aggressive Portland Police officers didn’t shove away a medic who was administering first-aid).”

That’s completely irresponsible conjecture.

“or accusations of “attempted murder” like Wheeler has directed toward Black Lives Matter protestors.”

Or you know, actual murder, which happened.

Richard Herbin
Guest
Richard Herbin

Was driving southbound on McLoughlin (in my four wheeled metal box) when I saw that caravan heading north. Reminded me of images of ISIS pickup truck caravans from a few years ago. Ominous. This could get much worse.

Jon
Guest
Jon

Turns out 90+ days of lawlessness begets more lawlessness. I don’t like trucks racing through downtown any more than I like seeing people looting businesses and burning stuff. It is time to enforce a curfew in downtown and stop anyone that does not work or live there from entering the area enclosed by the river and HW405. Enough is enough. Stabbings, shootings, murder, tear gas, lasers, trucks, arson, looting, etc. It needs to end. This is not protest it is violence for the sake of conflict.

Convoy Legal?
Guest
Convoy Legal?

What’s the law on convoys in Oregon? Are they legal? Could a political protest legally drive down the road filling all lanes at the minimum legal speed limit creating a huge traffic jam at rush hour? Is there a law about riding in the back of a pick up? Is there a law about flying large banners from vehicles?

JR
Guest
JR

That’s absolutely nuts. Someone was very likely to be run over and killed, if not maimed by this dispicable behavior. They clearly don’t value any human life if it doesnt’ agree with them. Perhaps this was their idea of a good time. It had nothing to do with protest and more to do with indiscriminately causing harm to others. I suppose their grounds for protest is the loss of white privilege if true equality is reached. It was perfectly Trumpian.

David Hampsten
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David Hampsten

It was a matter of time, I’m sorry to say. These kinds of protests with motor vehicle convoys were common in most of the rest of the country even before Covid-19. While most of them seem to be on the right of the political spectrum, I’ve seen and heard of several on the left – it’s really a reflection of “car-dependence-culture” rather than right-wing-mullet-white-trash-gun-nut culture, though obviously Portland experienced the latter too.

Good luck on both banning such protests and enforcing such a ban. While you are about it, please ban taxes, death, and wing nuts.

qqq
Guest
qqq

I appreciate all the questions in the article being brought up, including Metro Councilor Lewis’s questioning why a riot wasn’t declared.

Another question–the group assembled on private property at Clackamas Town Center. I’d guess the chances of the mall owners giving that group permission to take over a good portion of their parking lot was about zero. There are photos of the participants in the parking lot arming themselves, having their license plates covered, etc. I heard the county sheriffs were there but allowed all that. It sounds like, “No problem, just don’t start attacking people with your trucks and guns and sprays until you’re out of our jurisdiction”.

Joseph E
Guest
Joseph E

Re: “he might have survived if overly aggressive Portland Police officers didn’t shove away a medic who was administering first-aid”

Jonathan, I recommend removing this misleading statement. It is very unlikely to be true.

The person who died was shot in the chest at close range. It is very unlikely that this would was survivable even with immediate surgical treatment. For a chest wound which injures the lungs, heart or major blood vessels, first aid is not effective. Only immediate surgery might have been helpful, and in many cases even that is impossible if there is a direct injury to the heart, aorta or vena cava.

– Joseph Eisenberg, M.D. (Family Medicine)

Toby Keith
Guest
Toby Keith

It’s all “defund/abolish the police” then it’s complaining the police didn’t protect you. Which is it?

Ruthie
Guest
Ruthie

Thank you for writing this. You aren’t alone in these observations.

Nathan Hinkle
Guest
Nathan Hinkle

The trucks were part of an un-permitted “Cruise Rally” whose organizers said it would be a parade to show support for Donald Trump.

Are you sure this was un-permitted? ODOT had all on-ramps in the city center blocked to make space for the parade – it seemed organized. I’ve submitted a public records request to ODOT for more information and am awaiting a determination on the fee waiver.

Also, has anyone looked into using ORS 153.058 to issue citations for any of the observed violations? With PPB refusing to act against dangerous drivers, this is one option we might have to hold them accountable.

Skid
Guest
Skid

Anyone remember how the PPB handled Critical Mass? That was bicycles riding en masse through stop lights and stop signs and being beaten and arrested for doing so. No weapons no violence to innocent bystanders. I guess if you drive a silly lifted truck it’s okay to cause mayhem on the streets. Where’s Barnum and Balzer when you need them?

Bicycling Al
Guest
Bicycling Al

Make sure you don’t commit any bicycle code violations! Everyone up on their bicycle code? https://chicagocrusader.com/la-cops-shoot-and-kill-dijon-kizzee-following-alleged-bicycle-code-violation/

Steve Scarich
Guest
Steve Scarich

DA Schmidt set the tone by refusing to charge the vast majority of the rioters. PPB is taking the cue, and looking the other way at most low-level crimes. One, I mean one, felony conviction after nearly six months of serious criminal behavior in Portland. That’s lawlessness.

FDUP
Guest
FDUP

Um, ‘cruising’ has been illegal downtown for how many years now?

Dagny Taggart
Guest
Dagny Taggart

Quote: “On Saturday afternoon, hundreds of people drove cars and trucks into downtown Portland with “Trump 2020” and USA flags flying high.”

Isn’t that the part that REALLY pisses you off? Come on, admit it.

Quote: “…organizers said it would be a parade to show support for Donald Trump. You have to be extremely naive and/or willfully ignorant to think this wouldn’t have ended like it did.”

Really? So, if people want to show support for their presidential candidate, it is OK for leftists to assassinate them? That’s what happened in this case. A man was killed ONLY because he was a Trump supporter. That is some sick stuff. Want to defend that?

Quote: “….After it was clear criminal acts were taking place, why didn’t PPB lay down a spike strip to stop the drivers? Or slash tires to disable the vehicles…”

I did not see any criminal acts by the Trump supporters in your video. I saw people legally operating vehicles on public streets and a bunch of adult children trying to stop them so they could, no doubt, vandalize their vehicles, and harm the vehicle occupants. By not stopping, the vehicle drivers likely prevented serious injury or death that would have happened if they had stopped and allowed the mob to surround them.

Trump got 17% of the vote in Multnomah County in 2016. He got 39% of the vote in the state. Do his supporters not deserve to show support for him? I’d love to have a MAGA hat, Trump bumper sticker, or yard sign, but because of the violent, fascist behavior of leftists across this country toward Trump supporters I am afraid to do it. I’d be fine defending myself, but biased leftist judges would put me in jail for doing so and they’d let those who harassed or attacked me go free. That’s where we are in this country. Are you OK with that?

Quote: “If Chief Lovell and Mayor Wheeler can’t protect us from these armed, out-of-town, roving marauders in massive, lifted 4x4s they are not fit to do their jobs.”

They also have not protected anyone else down there during the 95 days of riots. They allow businesses and property to be destroyed by fascist thugs every night. Do you know how much money those businesses pay in taxes for police protection? If they aren’t going to protect businesses, why should they protect a bunch of morons getting in the way of moving vehicles? Are you special? Shouldn’t we get equal protection under the law?

I’ll provide a word of advice for you folks who may be thinking of engaging in arson, looting and other criminal behavior: Read Oregon law on it – pay close attention to section 2: https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/161.225

Dagny

Lawrence Tate
Guest
Lawrence Tate

The riots set a better one. You don’t like violence and lawlessness in kind?

Shirley reese
Guest
Shirley reese

The smartest thing you all could do, is stay home when you know these trumpians and militias are coming out. Give them no fight. Let the cameras show their faces and criminal behavior.