Two days after violent scuffles broke out amid dueling demonstrations in downtown Portland, Mayor Ted Wheeler said Monday he is asking Police Chief Chuck Lovell why officers didn’t intervene.
In a statement, Wheeler said he is reviewing the decision not to step in as right-wing activists, including members of the Proud Boys, and Black Lives Matter counter-demonstrators fought, exchanged volleys of rocks, water bottles, smoke canisters and paintballs at each other. One person pointed a gun at Black Lives Matter demonstrators at some point over the two hours, and federal officers eventually dispersed the crowd.
Portland police officers made several announcements over loudspeakers acknowledging seeing the violence and warned that arrests could be made. The bureau has used similar hands-off tactics during several prior violent encounters between left- and right-wing activists during downtown Portland rallies in recent years.
Previous Story: Saturday Night Riot Follows All-Out Afternoon Brawl In Portland
Another mass brawl breaks out in downtown Portland. Proud Boys and other right-wing groups rush in and fight #antifa, who are pushed back. Bats, sticks and pepper spray are used in the brutal melee. #PortlandRiots pic.twitter.com/2BgrE2YmOT
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) August 22, 2020
Saturday’s rally was organized by right-wing activists in support of law enforcement. A rally the week before also led to fights, and Portland police later arrested a right-wing protester accused of firing gunshots. No one was shot.
Wheeler, who is Portland’s police commissioner, said he plans to share the bureau’s strategy explanation with the public and that officers “are needed to intervene in protests where police officers themselves are the flashpoint.”
“I vehemently oppose what the Proud Boys and those associated with them stand for, and I will not tolerate hate speech and the damage it does in our city,” Wheeler said Monday. “White nationalists, particularly those coming to our city armed, threaten the safety of Portlanders, and are not welcome here.”
Portland police said Saturday that 30 officers were available to manage the crowd, which numbered several hundred. Lovell said the bureau “had to be judicious with our limited resources” since many officers worked during demonstrations the night before and needed to respond to other emergency calls in the city.
During later demonstrations that night, the bureau said around 50 more officers were brought in to join other officers responding to a crowd of several hundred in Southeast Portland. Officers arrested 14 people.
Portland police intervention during nightly protests that sometimes lead to property damage, which have gone on for three months, have drawn widespread criticism for their use of force, including tear gas.
Monday’s statement by Wheeler is the first public comments he’s made about Saturday’s rally since it ended. Before the event, he, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty and the police bureau issued statements on social media asking demonstrations to remain peaceful.
Mayoral candidate Sarah Iannarone said in a statement Saturday after the rally that city police inaction during some of the dueling demonstrations have infuriated “progressive Portlanders.”
“Portland has become a destination for hate groups in the last four years, in part because Portland Police Bureau has not equally applied the law in responding to these outside agitators as they do to Portlanders — youth, moms, veterans — who stand up to say ‘Black Lives Matter,’” Iannarone said.
The general election is Nov. 3.
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