One week ago, Portland mayor Ted Wheeler ordered the demolition of a nascent “autonomous zone,” and castigated Seattle for allowing anarchists to take over its city. Last night, the anarchists tried again — twice. Simultaneous demonstrations at two police precincts turned ugly quickly as “Antifa militants” started putting up barricades at the North Portland precinct.
Police immediately called it an unlawful assembly, which the anarchists didn’t much like, as Andy Ngo briefly captured earlier this morning:
North Portland looks like a war zone right now. Antifa militants tried to establish an autonomous zone outside the @PortlandPolice North Precinct. They then started fires in the street. pic.twitter.com/dDar43Lvl7
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) June 26, 2020
The national media hasn’t taken much notice of this, but local TV station KOIN certainly did — as well as a second attempt to set up barricades shortly after police broke up the first:
Shortly after midnight, police declared the gathering outside of the North Precinct an unlawful assembly and used what appeared to be flash-bangs after protesters created barricades on the streets surrounding the precinct, including Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Police warned they would arrest demonstrators. Protesters responded with loud noises, explicit chanting and strobe lights. Eventually, protesters would set up another barricade at the intersection of MLK and NE Killingsworth St., setting a dumpster and debris on fire.
The protesters had marched from Fern Hill Park in Northeast Portland to the Portland Police Bureau’s North Precinct earlier Thursday evening. Many of them stayed at the precinct to chant and listen to speakers.
However, KOIN 6 News observed many in the group vandalizing the police building by spray-painting graffiti along the outer walls, blacking out security cameras and rolling dumpsters into the street to form a barricade as a line of uniformed officers looked on from a distance.
Across the Willamette River at the Justice Center, another group formed on Thursday evening for a vigil for George Floyd and others killed by police. Later, the group dismantled the fence near the building and vandalized the structure.
Notably missing from the KOIN report are the words “mostly peaceful.” If the national media ever get around to covering the violence in Portland overnight, expect that mantra to get full use in its reports. The day actually did start off with relatively peaceful protests, starting in the evening at a march and demonstration “hosted by Green Tulip Peace & Nature School,” called “pre-school age appropriate,” at 6 pm PT. They marched out of the park toward the North Portland precinct and stuck around a while to “occupy space,” but then a group called Revolution Rising took over with a George Floyd “vigil.” When the sun went down, the violence began.
Wheeler and the Portland police were perhaps a bit passive in dealing with it at first, but still seem very firm about not allowing anarchists to seize territory. It’s not tough to see why; one look at Seattle’s meltdown is all one needs to understand what happens when cities abandon their responsibilities to keep order. The activities earlier in the day show that Portland has plenty of ways to protest and demonstrate without resorting to violence and vandalism, but that violence might end up doing what police largely can’t — sapping the enthusiasm and participation in legit political demonstrations and the demand for change in policing. All this does is remind Portland voters of the necessity of having police on the street, and maybe in even larger numbers.