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

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.”


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
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