'Lawless city?' Worry after Portland police don't stop chaos

A crowd of 100 people wreaked havoc in downtown Portland, Oregon, this week, smashing storefront windows, lighting dumpsters on fire and causing at least $500,000 in damage

Via AP news wire
Saturday 16 October 2021 00:52
Portland Protests
Portland Protests

A crowd of 100 people wreaked havoc in downtown Portland Oregon, this week – smashing storefront windows, lighting dumpsters on fire and causing at least $500,000 in damage – but police officers didn't stop them.

Portland Police Bureau officials say that's because of legislation passed by Oregon lawmakers this year, which restricts the tools they can use to confront people vandalizing buildings and causing mayhem.

“The reason that we did not intervene goes back to what we talked about last month with House Bill 2928 and the restrictions placed on us in a crowd control environment,” KOIN reports that Portland Police Lt. Jake Jensen said in a neighborhood meeting Thursday.

Residents frustrated by the latest round of destructive demonstrations Tuesday questioned whether that meant anything goes now in Portland.

“Does that mean we are now like a lawless city?” Linda Witt asked during the meeting with police. Jensen replied saying people can still face consequences later.

The legislation in question is House Bill 2928, which prohibits the use of things like pepper spray and rubber bullets for crowd control. However there is an exception – when the circumstances constitute a riot and if the officer using the chemical incapacitant reasonably believes its use is necessary to stop and prevent more destructive behavior.

“The law clearly allows Portland Police to use effective tools necessary to control violent crowds,” House Minority Leader Christine Drazan told The Associated Press on Friday. “However, activist attorneys are deliberately misinterpreting legislation to prevent police from intervening. They have no business putting law enforcement and community safety at risk.”

Portland Police Sgt. Kevin Allen told AP that officers have been made aware of the “potential implications” of the legislation and that it’s being analyzed by the city attorney’s office.

“Until we have some clarity on the bill we have to follow the most restrictive interpretation of it,” Allen said.

Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment on Friday. Neither did lawmakers of the Democratic legislative caucuses of the Legislature which is controlled by the Democratic Party.

Portland has seen ongoing, often violent protests since the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis Some activists have complained that the police have been heavy handed in their response.

On Tuesday, police say 35 separate locations were targeted — including banks, retail stores, coffee shops, and government buildings.

Authorities say although police did not directly intervene, officers did give direction to disperse over a loudspeaker and a Mobile Field Force moved in, at which point the crowd splintered.

___

Sara Cline is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in