People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Portland Protests Met with Violence or Hugs, Depending on Permit Protests have continued in Portland since the election of Donald Trump (PPR #70). The largest protest by far was the Women's March, held January 21, the day following Trump's inauguration, with an estimated 70-100,000 participants supporting women's rights and protesting the newly elected President. The march was permitted for 44 blocks, but due to the size of the crowd, police shut down many downtown bridges and streets. The police presence could be called "friendly," with officers posing for photo-ops and wearing pink "pussycat hats" in support of the march and few officers visible other than those directing traffic at intersections. In contrast, a non-permitted march on Inauguration Day was met with violence and weapons.
Two days prior to the marches, Mayor Wheeler and Chief Marshman explained they would not tolerate acts of vandalism or violence, protesters on the freeways, or the blocking of light rail trains.
On January 20, several groups converged at Pioneer Square to protest the President and issues including police brutality and homelessness. The protest was met with an intimidating display of weaponry and force, with police on bicycles and others in full riot gear blocking roads, bridges, and buildings. Portland Copwatch members observing that day got a small taste of a chemical agent fired by Sheriff's Deputies on the Burnside Bridge. Later, police fired pepper spray, tear gas, sting- ball grenades, flashbangs, and less-lethal rounds at protesters. They used loudspeakers mounted on vehicles to threaten protesters with arrest for their "illegal gathering" and thanked them for their cooperation in obeying commands.
Reasons for the disparate treatment between the Inauguration Day protest and the Women's March may have included: whether or not the protesters obtained a permit/coordinated with police; time of day; subject of the protest; protesters' political agenda, dress and appearance; whether the groups were protesting police; and/or the City and police wanting to control the message and messengers.
The Portland Mercury reported on January 25 that Margaret Jacobson, one of the Women's March organizers, wrote after the march: "there's been such an emphasis on us having permits. [The police] kept saying it's for everyone's safety, and it was odd to have to basically BUY safety for our marchers. It was odd that the night before the policemen who were 'keeping us safe' attacked protesters because they were protesting without a permit."
Protests were held at the Portland Airport beginning January 28 denouncing Trump's first Executive Order regarding immigration. Senator Jeff Merkley, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, and Mayor Ted Wheeler joined the protest January 29 and gave speeches. Police in riot gear were in attendance and fired less-lethal rounds at several protesters and they carried off one counter-protester who was knocked unconscious in a fight (Oregonlive, January 30). Since that time, the Port of Portland changed their policy to require a "Free Speech Permit" to demonstrate for groups of ten or more, non-permitted "free speech" demonstrators must stand outside on the overhead roadway. Gregory McKelvey, who leads the group Portland's Resistance, told Willamette Week, "I think the Constitution is our free speech permit, and to require a permit from the same people enforcing the things we are protesting is counter-productive to what we are trying to protest" (February 6).
When Don't Shoot Portland took to the streets on February 20 ("Not my President's Day"), police met protesters with more violence, knocking people to the ground and causing injuries. At a March 29 protest outside City Council following the funeral of Quanice Hayes, who was shot by the PPB in February (article), riot police swarmed out of the Portland building, pushed people around and arrested six people.
Following the "putsch" from City Hall after the Police Association contract was passed last year (PPR #70), Empower Portland convinced the Fire Bureau to keep its members separated from PPB tactical squads so medical aid can get to protestors quickly (Oregonian, March 11).
99 people of 171 cited or arrested at protests since last year had their charges dropped (Portland Mercury, April 19).
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.