Portland Police Look Into Possible Framing Of Decent White Supremacists

Post-Racial America

This past weekend, white supremacists held a rally in downtown Portland, Oregon, to protest, I guess, gourmet doughnuts and farm-to-table dining. Portland is not just white. It's really, most sincerely white. The black population is actually decreasing despite increased growth in the region. These guys should probably focus their energies on Georgia, where a black woman might wind up becoming governor, but I admit I'm not their ideal adviser. Still, white racists squaring off against white liberals, who make lip service to diversity, in a predominately white environment. What is this? Congress?

The Patriot Prayer rally was intended to coincide with the anniversary of the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, where a woman was murdered and Donald Trump flexed his white supremacist muscles. There were "many fine people" among the counterprotesters who turned out to make clear that the Patriot Prayer ilk weren't welcome in their city even if they could afford it (the rents are ridiculous). Some folks, such as Twitter user and "average white suburbanite slob" Keltic Tim, thought counter-protesting was the real problem here.

Nothing feels less like freedom to me than unhinged racists parading through town unchallenged. Rallies like this should have counterprotests. That is the true "marketplace of ideas." It's also wrong to conflate all counterprotesters at these rallies, many of them normal working people in their non-fascist confronting lives, with Antifa, a very specific entity. They call themselves "anti-fascist," but they are a loosely affiliated group of losers who like to bust heads and make a scene. Sure, they might target right-wing racist organizations, but don't send out any Evites for the pity party just yet.

The right-wing Patriot Prayer rally was met by hundreds of counter-protesters, including many self-described anti-fascists. It started off peaceful but turned chaotic after police say a group started throwing rocks and bottles at officers. At least one person was injured and several were detained because of the ruckus.

Here's the problem: Shouldn't "self-described anti-fascists" refer to most Americans? Fascism is the bad thing, right? Anti-fascism should be sort of the default status of your average, Netflix-and-chilling American. (Also: Ruckus? That's an interesting word choice to describe a "peaceful rally" turned violent. My mind immediately goes to the first track from the 1993 hip-hop classic "Enter the Wu-Tang.") Texas Governor Greg Abbott served a spicy diss to "anti-fascists" with an imaginary Winston Churchill quote (it wasn't even something John Lithgow said on "The Crown").

Gov. Abbott should hire fact checkersTwitter

This is an even dumber spin on "the real racists are the ones calling out racism" trope. I consider myself a card-carrying "anti-fascist," and to borrow from the greatest movie speech ever, "Why aren't you, Greg?" Gov. Abbott later deleted this tweet, but not because he disagrees with the sentiment.

Portland police eventually showed up at the rally Saturday in calming, deescalating riot gear, declared the event officially a "civil disturbance," and ordered everyone to disperse with the gentle nudging of soothing "flash bang" devices.

The threats from police quickly simmered down the crowd as groups moved in all directions, mostly leaving the area. The crowd dissipated as the afternoon wore on with no other reports of clashes or violence.

This arguably might've had less than ideal results. Look, I get that the police have to protect peaceful counterprotesters from the aggressive actions of two groups of idiots but do SWAT team tactics ever help? There were reports of a woman suffering chemical burns, possibly from the "flash grenades." The Oregon branch of the ACLU criticized how police handled things, and Sunday Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw (what a awesomely Dickensian name!) released a statement promising an investigation into the matter.

"This morning I learned of allegations of injury as a result of law enforcement action. I take all force applications by members seriously and I have directed the Professional Standards Division to begin the intake process regarding these allegations to determine if force was used and if so, was within our policy and training guidelines," said Chief Outlaw.

Outlaw is the first black woman to lead the bureau. I'm sure even this tepid response didn't make her a lot of friends. She's supposed to deny any excessive force happened at all. Maybe the protesters brought the flash grenades. Monday Outlaw reiterated that the police's goal was to prevent a violent disturbance. To her point, it's probably a given that Antifa didn't show up to play nice. She also insists that genuinely peaceful counterprotesters, like the charming man from Denver in the clip above, had left by the time the police started shooting "pepper balls" and "paprika bags" (not a thing) at the crowd.

"We also have video of Patriot Prayer members… that were also impacted by the tools that we used as well," Outlaw said. "It's a little bit on both sides, but you might see that one side was impacted a little bit more than the other. But we don't go into it saying we'll provide special treatment to anybody."

PPB spokesperson Christopher Burley said he doesn't have that video in his office.

C'mon, sister, not that "both sides" garbage. Unless you're singing Joni Mitchell at karoake, never use that term again. Burley also said some things that facts were not readily available to validate.

PPB did confiscate some weapons earlier in the day. Burley answered questions about the photos of those weapons he sent to reporters during the Saturday protest. Despite many of the weapons being covered in Confederate flags and other symbols synonymous with racism, Burley suggested that counter-protesters could have planted those weapons to make Patriot Prayer look bad. He offered no evidence that this had happened.

Interesting and very new direction the Portland police are taking here: "This evidence clearly implicates someone ... hey, we can't prove it but maybe they were framed! Let's go take them out for a bacon maple bar doughnut!"

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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