A group of leaders representing various progressive organizations from across the Portland area have called for the resignations of Mayor Ted Wheeler and Police Chief Chuck Lovell in the wake of Saturday’s fatal shooting.
Bobbin Singh, executive director of the Oregon Justice Resource Center, said the conditions leading up to the incident were predictable citing various instances of clashes between right-wing protesters and counter demonstrators over the years.
“These conditions have been created because there’s been a lack of leadership, a lack of vision,” Singh said. “We can no longer move forward with the current leadership that’s in place in Portland.”
The victim of Saturday’s shooting has not been identified but was wearing a hat bearing the logo of Vancouver, Washington-based Patriot Prayer. Leader Joey Gibson told The Oregonian/OregonLive that although he couldn’t provide a name, the deceased man was “a good friend and a supporter” of the organization.
The group regularly staged demonstrations in Portland that were met with fierce opposition by left-leaning and other community groups for at least the last three years. Many of the scenes that typically played out during those rallies repeated Saturday as right-wing demonstrators pelted counter protesters with paint balls and scuffles broke out throughout downtown.
Portland-based community groups have long said they feared confrontations would lead to serious injuries or worse.
“I don’t think we can see what happened last night in a vacuum or as an isolated incident,” Olivia Katbi-Smith, co-chair of the Portland chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, said. “People are going to be killed on both sides of this because of the environment Ted Wheeler has been making in the city.”
The demand for Wheeler to resign was also echoed in a joint letter from the Oregon chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Oregon Justice Resource Center, the Portland Democratic Socialists of America NextUp Action Fund, Portland’s Resistance and Popular Mobilization PDX.
“What took place last night was inevitable given Mayor Wheeler’s repeated failure,” the letter said. “He has not protected or supported Portlanders. We do not have confidence in his ability to course-correct. He must resign.”
The shooting comes after Wheeler held a news conference on Wednesday vowing to do more to address violence during protests, police accountability and aid for downtown businesses. Wheeler is up for reelection in November and has previously said publicly that he wouldn’t resign.
Wheeler’s runoff challenger is Sarah Iannarone, an urban policy consultant who finished third in the 2016 mayoral race. In a statement Sunday, she said the violence was unacceptable and “predicted by many but preventable by those in positions of power.”
Wheeler also faces a community write-in campaign for Teressa Raiford, a community organizer and activist who finished third in the May mayoral primary. Raiford is the founder of nonprofit Don’t Shoot PDX, which has sued the city and federal authorities in recent months over police tactics during demonstrations such as using tear gas on crowds.
The general election is Nov. 3.
The community groups called together Sunday by the Oregon Justice Resource Center said police have repeatedly aided right-wing demonstrators while liberal activists are dispersed with tear gas and other crowd control munitions during protests against systemic racism and police brutality.
Portland police on Saturday diverted vehicles participating in a pro-Trump caravan toward Interstate 5 near the Hawthorne Bridge while keeping counter demonstrators off the road. Some cars and trucks began zooming past the police barricade after some time, heading into downtown Portland.
In previous years, Portland police would dispatch several officers to keep conservative activists separate from counter demonstrators. But no such interventions appeared Saturday and a police spokesman told The Oregonian/OregonLive the bureau does not publicly discuss its planning for such events.
The agency came under intense scrutiny last weekend when a far-right activist from Texas brandished a loaded gun as dueling demonstrations unfolded in front of the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse.
“The police stood by and did nothing,” Katbi-Smith said of the response to violent scuffles that broke out throughout the afternoon.
Lovell later said officers were hesitant to wade into the crowd as they were worried their presence would further flare already high tensions. Bureau leaders have also said they had 30 officers on hand to monitor the demonstration, a fraction of what they usually dispatch for large rallies.
The man who pulled the gun, identified as Alan Swinney, was spotted at a rally decrying a Black Lives Matter posted in front of Gresham City Hall days later and also at a flag-wave in The Dalles hours before Saturday’s deadly shooting.
Everton Bailey Jr. of The Oregonian/OregonLive staff contributed to this report.
— Eder Campuzano | @edercampuzano | Eder on Facebook
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