The fiery blaze in the Oregon city scarred demonstrations that happened across Portland over the weekend as part of continuing daily protests. Protesters are demanding that police undergo restructuring and anti-systemic-racism reforms since police killed George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota near the end of May.
Portland protests became peaceful and calm since the late July withdrawal of federal law enforcement agents, but in the dawn hours on Sunday, there was a clash where the arson attack took place.
This was the second time in recent days that a fire like this one had erupted. Although both fires were quickly stamped out, individuals have been criticized for the incidents that provoke police by causing property damage and other aggressive strategies, which contrasts the much large and peaceful protests, The Oregonian reported.
Three officers were injured while making efforts to clear a crowd outside the Portland Police Association building that was made up of several hundred people, according to police.
There were rallies happening throughout the city earlier that day in the afternoon that went on into the evening.
A Black business owner named Seneca Cayson who assisted in leading peaceful gatherings in downtown Portland has concerns that vandalism incidents and provoking law enforcement by a very small number out of many thousands of white protesters turning into rioters are distracting from the key goals of the Black Lives Matter movement.
But Cayson guessed that clashes such as these also bring increased attention to racial injustices and when talking about the white rebels, said “We are fighting alongside them to… be equal.”
Many point to competing voices and the jarring scowl of being in the national spotlight that reduced the circumstances into a culture war when in reality it is far more complex than that.
“It happens so much that the things that we care about get hijacked and get put on the back burner. And that just gets put into a big barrel with everything else. We all want the same thing. But so often we get drowned out,” Neil Anderson said, who is also a local Black business owner.
For many, included in breaking down racial barriers is taking funds from and restructuring the police completely.
Portland has a population that is less than 6% black but people of color are disproportionately pulled because of a program in the city that formed a team to reduce gun violence.
An analysis of force used by police released last month discovered that officers using force in 2019 was much more likely against black people, in particular young black men more than other groups, even with overall trends geared to use less force.
“It is the entire culture of the Portland police bureau that is fundamentally unmanageable and must change,” Jo Ann Hardesty said, who is Portland’s first black councilwoman, and she’s also an activist who’s pushed police reform for the past few decades.
“Thirty years is a long time to be asking for the exact same reforms. The difference now is there are tens of thousands of Portlanders who want the exact same thing,” Hardesty stated.
Police said that on Saturday night demonstrators broke into the police union building, lit it on fire, then added to it when officers announced it was a riot.
Oregon state politicians are holding a special session on Monday to discuss the passage of a wider ban on the use of chokeholds by police and increasing restrictions on other uses of force, according to a report on Sunday by the Oregonian.
Kyle James Lee – The AEGIS Alliance – This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.