Aaron Mesh: Mass Shooting Kills 18-Year-Old Woman Near Downtown Portland Food Carts (Willamette Week)
I'm having a hard time coping with this.
A mass shooting in downtown Portland, shortly before last call on Saturday morning, killed an 18-year-old woman and injured six others near a line of food carts in what police described as “an extremely chaotic scene.”
Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell said the killing, along with another fatal shooting four hours later in the Parkrose neighborhood, in deep Northeast Portland, marked the city’s 50th and 51st homicides of the year. Portland saw 55 homicides in 2020, a 26-year record but one on pace to be broken by the end of July.
As of July 6, the city had seen 579 shooting incidents in 2021—more than double the number at that time in 2020. For months, city leaders have bitterly debated whether to increase staffing for a police force that saw its budget trimmed amid racial justice protests last year and is dogged by repeated allegations of excessive force.
It occurred three blocks south of Ankeny Alley, the center of an Old Town nightlife district where dance clubs are once again packed to capacity after pandemic shutdowns. That “entertainment district,” which was once fenced off and surrounded by police squad cars on weekend nights, now sees a sparse police presence, despite what club security services describe as a gang war occurring near the queues for their venues.
Asked by WW why police presence in the Old Town entertainment district was scant, Lovell said those officers were reassigned after COVID shutdowns reduced nightlife, and implied that the bureau was still learning that the clubs were again drawing crowds.
Jonathan Levinson: Police in Oregon are searching cellphones daily and straining civil rights (OPB)
Over the past decade, MDFT use has quickly proliferated across the country. Records obtained by OPB show the Portland Police Bureau adopted the technology as early as October 2014 and has invested at least $270,629.96, outspending significantly larger departments.
By contrast, since 2015, the similarly-sized Seattle police department has spent at least $240,837 on MDFTs. The Houston police department, with five times more officers than PPB, has spent at least $210,255, and the Los Angeles police department spent around $358,426 despite being almost 10 times the size of the Portland police.
Warrants reviewed by OPB going back to 2018 show PPB searching phones to investigate a wide array of crimes ranging from attempted murder, bank fraud and robbery to lower level crimes like bike theft. And for years, the bureau was conducting digital searches with no policies in place regulating the practice.
“People, when faced with authority figures in particular, are very likely to agree to whatever they’re asked to do,” he said. “I don’t think people understand how extracting works ... but on the other hand, I’m not entirely convinced that they wouldn’t consent even if they did just because people consent to all sorts of police invasions of their privacy without a second thought in order to acquiesce to their authority.”
Blair Stenvick: Portland Police Say They're Needed to Prevent Gun Violence. Experts Disagree. (Portland Mercury)
Portland met a dire record last month: With 15 homicides over a 31-day period, July contained the highest number of homicides the city had recorded in a single month for over 30 years. The Portland Police Bureau (PPB) also reported 99 shootings in July—about three times the number of shootings recorded in July 2019.
The jump in shootings and homicides came shortly after Mayor Ted Wheeler disbanded PPB’s Gun Violence Reduction Team (GVRT), a group of officers focused on investigating all instances of gun violence in Portland. The unit had faced scrutiny from Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty and other police reform advocates for years for disproportionately pulling over Black drivers and keeping a list of suspected “criminal gang affiliates” that allowed police to surveil young men of color. Wheeler, who also serves as Portland’s police commissioner, decided to disband the unit in June, amid ongoing mass protests against police brutality and racial injustice in Portland.
Mark Leymon, an associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at Portland State University (PSU), told the Mercury that there’s “absolutely no evidence” that the recent disbanding of GVRT contributed to July’s numbers. When asked what the likely cause was, Leymon cautioned it’s “too early to tell” whether July’s numbers qualify as a sustained spike in violent crime.But, he said, “The single most predictive measure of criminal activity is the economy.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused record unemployment numbers in Oregon—and as Brian Renauer, the director of PSU’s Criminal Justice Policy Research Institute, pointed out, economic anxiety was “already there” for Portlanders who never recovered from the 2008 Great Recession.
“It was already impacting certain areas and geographies of the city for a number of years,” Renauer said. “There are places and families that have never recovered from a prior economic crisis.”
Heaped on top of economic anxiety is the stress and trauma caused by simply living through an unprecedented pandemic, Leymon said. Leymon used an analogy of a glass of water, explaining that each person has “an emotional glass that can handle a certain amount of emotion.” Many people’s glass is already nearly full because of the pandemic, meaning it doesn’t take much for them to tip over and resort to violence.
“Our emotional stress glass has water in it up to a certain base, so it’s very easy to spill over,” he said. “The spillover is when criminal activity happens… People are more likely to snap or make poor decisions when they’re stressed.”
In addition to citing the dissolution of the GVRT, PPB officials have blamed the protests against police brutality as contributing to the spike in shootings. At a recent press conference, Lovell called the protests a “drain on resources” that kept police from focusing on crime prevention and response.
Leymon calls that reasoning “disingenuous.”
“They like to say that every day—that police are out there preventing crime,” he said. “But police don’t prevent crime, especially in Portland. Portland’s policing system is a responsive system…They’re not really doing any proactive work, they’re just there in the neighborhood. The most they can do is be a deterrent, and deterrents just aren’t very effective.”
However, Leymon said there may be an indirect link between protests and an increase in violent crime.
“You could argue that the current protests are societal stress, so that increases criminal activity,” he said. “There’s probably some truth to that. But... people of color and other marginalized communities have been feeling that stress for [hundreds of years]. It isn’t like the stress those people feel hasn’t been existing prior to the protests. It’s just, suddenly, a bunch of white people have noticed.”
Alex Zielinski: Wheeler Responds to Police Inaction During Saturday Brawl (Portland Mercury)
On Saturday night, a member of the public (who asked the Mercury to remain anonymous) sent an email to Wheeler, sharing their concerns about PPB's response to the daytime protest. The person wrote that officers' inaction was particularly upsetting to see when contrasted with PPB's routinely aggressive response to nightly demonstrations against police brutality.
An hour later, Wheeler responded.
"For days you’ve been telling me that PPB's response has been overbearing. So last night and tonight they tried something different, and you’re demanding more of a police presence? Do you see how there is a no-win situation here? What, specifically, would you expect them to do? Have 30 officers charge into a crowd of 300 people, many of them armed? Would you do that? Would you ask other people to do that? I’m not shading you, these are serious questions. What specifically would you do? I am honestly interested."
Staff have confirmed this email was sent by Wheeler. While the message was not meant to be a formal public statement, Wheeler's quick reaction offers a different story—one of frustration and genuine exhaustion surrounding the public's demands.
Rebecca Ellis: Portland’s protests: 3 months in, no end in sight (OPB)
Mayor Ted Wheeler says the city is "considering all options” to end nightly clashes between police, protesters, but he lacks a clear plan.
The worst nights follow the same script: A large group takes to the streets calling for an end to police violence and systemic racism. A small fraction commits low-level crimes — often lighting small fires, graffiti-ing buildings and throwing fireworks or water bottles at officers. The police respond with force against the entire crowd.
Over the last month, demonstrators have been battered with batons as they left protests. Police have charged at crowds until they’re pushed deep into residential neighborhoods. Journalists have been shoved and arrested. Tear gas, while used more sparingly than in the early days of the protests, is threatened near nightly. And police regularly shut down protests by declaring them riots. That happened twice over the weekend, though police declined to intervene as far-right activists, some brandishing firearms, brawled with counter-protesters for hours on Saturday afternoon.
“They’ve tried everything from not showing up to preemptively dispersing crowds, and some of those strategies, in my opinion, have worked well. Others have not worked well,” he said. “My expectation is the police bureau will evolve, and as they see a need for change, they’ll change.”
There are serious questions, however, over whether the city’s police oversight agency, which many including the mayor have called toothless, will be able to sort through the mounting reports of police violence. The office has been flooded by complaints since protests began. The director says they’ve received more than a year’s worth of new work.
Meanwhile, Hardesty has proposed an entirely new accountability system, which voters will weigh in on in November. If passed, the ballot measure would scrap the review agency completely and create a system with more independence and new powers.
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Ryan Haas, Sergio Olmos, Bradley W. Parks: Protesters fight using pepper spray, baseball bats in Portland on Saturday (OPB)
Protesters at Portland rallies to support police and show support for President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign engaged in physical combat repeatedly with counterprotesters Saturday without police intervention. Members of the chaotic crowd used an array of weapons, including baseball bats and firearms to beat and threaten those they opposed.
Police said they did not declare a riot because they didn’t have the resources to handle one. After pro-Trump demonstrators left and counterprotesters returned to Terry Schrunk Plaza, federal officials declared an unlawful assembly.
Alex Zielinski: Hall Monitor: Fair Weather Wheeler (Portland Mercury)
Now that the federal police have retreated from the front lines of Portland’s nightly demonstrations, Mayor Ted Wheeler has returned to demonizing those protesting police brutality.
"This is not advocacy to reform or transform any system," said Wheeler, speaking at a Thursday news conference, where he condemned the previous night’s protest outside the Portland Police Bureau's (PPB) East Precinct, claiming that the demonstrations are no longer about racial justice and police accountability.
“The conversation we are having right now is keeping us from the important work of racial justice, equity and comprehensive and thoughtful reform,” Wheeler said about the protests.
Yet it was just two weeks ago that Wheeler stood among the same group of protesters, inhaling plumes of tear gas and decrying the actions of federal police outside the city’s federal courthouse. It appears that defending his citizens from police brutality is only a priority when it’s not his own police force swinging batons at nonviolent protesters.
When camouflaged federal officers shot tear gas and impact munitions at Portlanders, Wheeler quickly severed PPB’s ties with federal law enforcement agencies and went on national TV shows to decry the feds’ “unconstitutional” tactics, and applaud his city’s uprising against police violence.
But now that the nation’s attention has shifted away from Portland, Wheeler’s back to trusting law enforcement’s incendiary narrative about these demonstrations without considering the experiences of protesters and observers on the ground.
Wheeler instead used his platform Thursday to elevate the voices of police officers, city staff who believe their exhaustion from working months of protests is a bigger concern than the public’s right to oppose their years of disproportionate abuse against people of color.
“We’re protesting to defund the police and invest in the community,” said Hester, whose voice is raspy from leading nightly protest chants. “And we haven’t seen that yet. It’s pretty simple, this isn’t over until we achieve that.”
Wheeler mentioned Trump’s campaign tactics Thursday, but he didn’t mention another re-election campaign headed to the November ballot: His own. Like Trump, Wheeler is using these protests as a way to gain political points, not an opportunity to question if the reforms he’s comfortable with are what
Portlanders are actually asking for.
Each morning, Wheeler receives a briefing from PPB leadership about the previous nights’ protests, which inform his understanding of a movement meant to dismantle the police force. He’d do well to start giving the same type of attention to the people calling for change.
Elliott Young: Trump just adding fuel to fire set by Portland’s Democratic leaders (Houston Chronicle)
It’s not just protesters who are getting abused by the Portland police. The Department of Justice entered into a settlement agreement with the city in 2014 because of its unconstitutional policing of people with mental illness, including the beating to death in custody of James Chasse. Last year, 60 percent of the people killed by the Portland police were suffering a mental health crisis. Half of arrests and half of use-of-force incidents in the past few years are of homeless people. And Black Portlanders continue to be subject to traffic stops and searches at wildly disproportionate rates.
So, when the mayor of Portland poses as the leader of the Resistance, it causes us to pause. While we do oppose federal agents in our streets, the real danger we have been facing in Portland since long before Trump’s election has been the local police.
Many of those arrested were volunteers working with Riot Ribs, a barbecue tent that has been serving up free food to anyone who asks since the Fourth of July. From the sidewalk of SW Salmon, the volunteers who avoided arrest watched the blue awning of their stand collapsed by government contractors, still within the boundaries of Lownsdale Square Park. The volunteers hadn't been able to grab anything associated with the stand, including a large stainless steel grille they'd received the night before from Pok Pok, and thousands of dollars worth of food donations that they'd planned on feeding to hungry people.
Jonathan Levinson and Conrad Wilson: Federal Law Enforcement Use Unmarked Vehicles To Grab Protesters Off Portland Streets (OPB)
Federal law enforcement officers have been using unmarked vehicles to drive around downtown Portland and detain protesters since at least July 14. Personal accounts and multiple videos posted online show the officers driving up to people, detaining individuals with no explanation of why they are being arrested, and driving off.
The tactic appears to be another escalation in federal force deployed on Portland city streets, as federal officials and President Donald Trump have said they plan to “quell” nightly protests outside the federal courthouse and Multnomah County Justice Center that have lasted for more than six weeks.
Alex Zielinski: Hall Monitor: Crossing the Line (Portland Mercury)
Yet Wheeler has been clear—and honest—about one thing.
“Portland continues to be used as a staging ground for violence night after night,” he said Sunday. “This is causing unprecedented harm to our communities, livelihoods, and Portlanders continue to fear for their safety.”
But it’s time Wheeler acknowledges who is truly bringing this violence into our community: Unarmed 20-somethings in black hoodies, or heavily armed law enforcement prepared for war.