As Portland’s protests against police violence and systemic racism approach 80 consecutive nights, the location of the main action has shifted from downtown to residential neighborhoods on the east side of the Willamette River, bringing crowds of demonstrators and a heavy police force onto usually quiet nighttime streets.

People who live and work in areas where protests have taken place are not happy.

After a protest was declared a riot Saturday when a small group of demonstrators lit a fire inside the Portland police union building on Lombard Street in North Portland, police pushed protesters into the Kenton neighborhood.

In downtown Kenton, protesters used wooden items, including picnic tables and road barrier signs, to build a barricade across Denver near Schofield Street. The standoff between police and demonstrators continued past midnight.

On Reddit and Facebook, people who live in the area expressed anger about property destruction.

“Lots of people worked hard to make our little neighborhood pleasant and to help the local businesses stay open,” wrote Redditor WheeblesWobble in a post called “Leave Kenton Alone!”

“Now it’s trashed,” the user wrote. “This was not a BLM protest, this was a tantrum by a bunch of entitled kids.”

The writer of the post and many commenters noted that some of the damaged property came from Po’Shine’s, a black-owned business.

The damage was to a dumpster, Po’Shine’s head chef James Bradley, said Tuesday.

“What a dumpster has to do with Black Lives Matter, I don’t know,” Bradley said.

Bradley is Black himself and supports protest, but he believes in the power of non-violent protest, he said.

“If people want to protest,” he said, “find your hands busy doing something for the people that you’re protesting for. There’s a blueprint, and the blueprint is called the Civil Rights Movement.”

He called what happened in Kenton Saturday night “tomfoolery.”

Billy Burch lives near the police union building with his family.

“The violence and fires have definitely disturbed my family,” he said Tuesday. “Having to close all of the windows so that tear gas doesn’t get in isn’t fun as we don’t have air conditioning.”

Burch also said he didn’t think the current incarnation of protests supported the message of the Black Lives Matter movement. And he associates the ongoing demonstrations with a rise in violence in other parts of town.

“I feel sad about the state of Portland right now in general,” Burch said. “If I could have family visit, I would tell them not to.”

Unhappy neighbors can also be found in East Portland, where two women in their 70s ended up splashed with paint after trying to tell people vandalizing a police building on Burnside Street to stop.

But while some neighbors decry the actions of protesters, others are unhappy with the police.

In the Reddit thread, several people said it seemed like people were more interested in protecting property than human life.

“Downvote me if you like,” write user Illegalacquiescence, “but as a person of color all I read and see here is white privilege asking politely that the protesters leave their insured property out of the struggle for equality and the defunding/abolition of the police.”

It’s an ideological battle that hasn’t just played out in neighborhoods, but across the city.

Some in Portland, including the local leader of the NAACP, have said the Black Lives Matter movement is being co-opted and earlier this month, Mayor Ted Wheeler, Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell among said that they support Black Lives Matter but condemn the violence of some protestors at the nightly demonstrations.

“If you are a nonviolent demonstrator and you don’t want to be part of intentional violence, please stay away from these areas,” Wheeler said. “Our community must say that this violence is not Portland, that these actions do not reflect our values and these crimes are distracting from reform, not advancing.”

But during a virtual event held Sunday evening, several people involved in the nightly protests, including Demetria Hester, activist and survivor of a hate crime committed by MAX train murderer Jeremy Christian, and writer Mac Smiff, said the nightly protests were still an important vehicle for dismantling racist systems.

“We’ll be in these streets until we can feel the change in our bodies,” he said.

Sunday night, several hours after the virtual town hall, Hester was arrested near the police union building as she participated in the protest.

— Lizzy Acker


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