LA Times asks 'What's the matter with Portland?'

AP Photo/Noah Berger

On Tuesday of this week, Portland’s KGW 8 sent reporters to a tent camp that was about to be cleared out by the city after many complaints from neighbors. Instead of getting what they expected, i.e. placid man-on-the-street interviews with neighbors and the homeless themselves, they got a front row seat to a shooting.


KGW reporter Blair Best and Photojournalist Ken McCormick saw a fight breakout between two men. One was hitting the other with what appeared to be a large, ax-like weapon when a gunshot was fired. One of the men fell to the ground and then hobbled off into the woods.

The KGW crew tried calling 911, but no one picked up right away. Another neighbor got through to dispatch and police arrived about 10 minutes later. None of the people living in the camp would speak with police about what they saw and the victim and suspect ran off before police arrived.

Portland’s anarchists also added some local color to the scene. To protest the clearing of the tent camp, they had cut through a fence where a group of locally famous goats were kept. The goats escaped and some of the homeless stayed up all night helping to collect them because they didn’t want to be blamed. The anarchists left a note that read, “You Sweep, we strike! – Some anarchists.”

That’s just one story that happened this Tuesday but it’s also a microcosm of Portland as a whole. You have serious social problems which spill over into crime and violence. The city is trying but not really succeeding in dealing with it. And then you have the far left who are working against the city, supposedly on behalf of the homeless. In reality, the anarchists just make everything worse for everyone.


Today the LA Times has a lengthy story up about how Portland got to where it is. It’s titled, “What’s the matter with Portland? Shootings, theft and other crime test city’s progressive strain.” It’s worth reading in its entirety if you have the time but the gist is what I wrote above. Right from the opening you get a picture of the divide between the left and the far left.

Flora Gonzalez, who lives on the north side of the street, is distressed about conditions in the historically blue-collar neighborhood.

The 40-year-old package handler for FedEx said that people have openly dealt drugs and urinated on the sidewalk outside her family’s duplex. They‘ve dumped feces and used syringes in her manicured yard, played booming music at 3 a.m. and stripped stolen cars for parts. Shots have been fired behind her children’s bedroom…

But Juniper Simonis, who rents a home across the street, said she opposed calls for police clampdowns.

The 38-year-old environmental biologist and data scientist, whose frontyard features a handmade “DISARM, DEFUND, DISMANTLE POLICE” sign, said Portland officials continued to fail the homeless by underfunding services and “sweeping” camps with callous disregard for people’s dignity and property.

An activist who marched downtown in 2020, Simonis said the problem is not that Portland is too liberal, but that it is not liberal enough. “There’s a lack of resources, and I think of being liberal in terms of spending money to provide support services,” Simonis said. “Trying to regulate homelessness out of a city, I don’t view that as liberal at all.”


The story walks through a history of Portland. For a long time it was seen as a model city. In the 90s there was an influx of young people who wanted to live there. When the pandemic and the riots over the murder of George Floyd hit in 2020, Portland became a hotbed of daily street battles between anarchists and the police. And as you may remember, Mayor Ted Wheeler tried to take the side of the anarchists. He even got tear-gassed with them. But they only hated him more for it somehow. They literally chased him out of his high-rise home. He was confronted in the streets and even punched on one occasion. The far left put forward a candidate for mayor who was a true leftist, someone who reflexively sided with Antifa and political violence.

And in the midst of all of this the city defunded the police and got rid of the Gun Violence Reduction Team which was there to prevent violent crime before it started. And crime started to rise but the city didn’t have enough cops to deal with it. The violence started making headlines as the number of murders in the city set historic records. A police abolitionist group called the Portland Freedom Fund bailed out a man named Mohamed Osman Adan who had beaten up a woman who was the mother of his children. What happened next was entirely predictable:

A week later, Portland police arrested Adan after finding Abraham, a 36-year-old Black woman, in her home strangled to death and slashed in the face with a kitchen knife.

John Toran, 47, the Black owner of a construction company who was born and raised in Portland, said he understood the bail fund was trying to counter malicious prosecution and inequality in the criminal justice system. But, he said, people felt less safe and the city had a duty to respond.

“‘Progressive’ means something different now than when it did when I was growing up,” the longtime Democrat said. “Now, when I think of progressive, I think of extremism.”


And that’s really where Portland is these days. It’s a very progressive city where a bare majority is interested in restoring order and having a place where they feel safe in their own homes. But there’s a large, vocal minority of people who want the city to be an ongoing social experiment in leftist politics, i.e. the ones who believe the problem is that Portland isn’t liberal enough.

For the moment, the moderates have the upper hand. The mayor restored a version of the Gun Violence Reduction Team. Money was put into hiring new officers (though they’ve had trouble attracting them). And the city recently voted to reform the entire structure of Portland’s government making it more traditional. They also voted out Jo Ann Hardesty, the most far left member of the city council who has been pushing to defund the police for years.

It’s a start but Portland still has a long way to go. At the base of all of this, it seems to me, is the difficult realization for many progressives that there really is such a thing as too far left. And the further revelation that they may need to work against those people if they want things to improve. Meanwhile, there are still a lot of genuine extremists who are more interested in striking a revolutionary pose than they are in creating a livable city.


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