Politics & Policy

Portland is ‘Sick and Tired’ of Anarchist Violence, Destruction, Officials Say

Police officers stand guard during a rally against police in Portland, Ore., September 26, 2020. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Elected officials and community leaders in Portland, Ore., joined together on Monday in calling for an end to the violence, destruction, and intimidation by far-left anarchists who have spent nearly nine months wreaking havoc in the city amid ongoing protests against racism and police brutality.

“The community is sick and tired of people engaging in criminal destruction and violence and doing it under the guise of some noble cause,” Mayor Ted Wheeler said during a news conference, according to the Associated Press.

While the city has been the site of a number of peaceful protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a black man killed by Minneapolis police during his arrest in May, officials say small groups of anarchists have continued to break businesses’ windows, threaten residents and assault police.  

“The misguided and miseducated anarchists reject civility and instead intentionally create mayhem through criminally destructive behavior tearing up our city. This must stop,” former state Senator Avel Gordly said.

“I say to them today, ‘Stop you are not helping, you are hurting black people,” added Gordly, the first Black woman to be elected to the Oregon State Senate.

The Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse was the site of nightly clashes between rioters and police last spring and the violence has again ramped up in recent weeks. Federal officers were stationed outside the building for much of the summer but were removed at the behest of local and state officials. Wheeler was forced to move out of his Portland apartment building after rioters set fire to the building’s lobby over the summer.

The Department of Justice has reportedly paid more than $1.5 million to repair the damage done to the courthouse in the months of unrest, according to the Oregonian. City police spent almost $8 million responding to the riots, making over 900 arrests throughout 120 consecutive days of unrest.

“The people who work here support the voices of racial and social justice and will not be intimidated from doing our jobs by the ugly graffiti or broken windows,” said Scott Erik Asphaug, U.S. attorney for the District of Oregon. “We do not confuse the voices of the many with the shouts of the few who hope to hold our city hostage by petty crime and violence.”

Fencing that surrounded the building was removed last week, but was later reinstalled on Sunday after protestors set fires, smashed windows and tagged the federal courthouse with spray paint.

The fence went back up at the tail end of another destructive week for the city: rioters broke windows and tagged buildings downtown with anti-government and anti-police sentiments on Thursday. The next day, roughly 100 people paraded through the Pearl District, breaking windows and blocking the street.

Officers used “kettling” — the action of creating a perimeter around protesters and detaining people— as some rioters threw rocks at officers.

Police said they recovered items left behind by the group including a crowbar, hammers, bear spray, slugging weapon with rocks, high impact slingshot and knives. At least 13 people were charged with crimes. 

“I want to be clear that this was not a protest group,” Chris Davis, Portland’s assistant police chief, said. “This was a group of people who have come to believe that they are entitled to damage other people’s property, threaten community members and assault police officers.”

Police said the rioters were the same group they have come up against throughout the past nine months: the “self-described anarchist left” which comprises mostly young white men.

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