By editorial board • 

Progress still hampered by battles on the fringes

Wednesday night, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, also the city’s police commissioner, was simultaneously being gassed by federal agents and berated by protesters cursing his name, labeling his appearance at the 56th night of protest nothing more than a photo opportunity.

The videos of federal agents dispatched by the president gassing moms and clubbing veterans simply wanting to hold a conversation are abhorrent. While the agents have legal standing to protect the federal courthouse, the tactics administered have rightfully sparked a national outcry against a militarized federal government engaging in street clashes against its citizens. It is indeed a radical response from the U.S. Executive Branch, and likely more about politics than law and order as an election nears.

But it’s also not a surprising occurrence in Portland, where fringe activists have historically been allowed too much leeway to ruin the pure demonstrations for First Amendment rights amid honest attempts at progress. 

To quote from a 2017 editorial in this newspaper:

“Whether it’s Republicans on the right or Democrats on the left, allowing the most radical elements of their bases to compromise their principles and mute their voices is repugnant. It helps tighten the grip of raw partisanship, thus serving to thwart reasonable policy initiatives. ...

“But when black-masked anarchists infiltrated the otherwise peaceful Portland demonstrations to pelt police, set blazes, smash windows, snarl traffic and engage in random acts of mayhem, organizers were more critical of the police for restoring order than the anarchists for disrupting it. ...

“The anarchists were aided and abetted by then-Mayor Charlie Hales, who established a virtually unmatched record of ineptitude during his mercifully brief tenure. They got another boost when the district attorney’s office dismissed charges against virtually all the 113 arrested.

“Mayoral successor Ted Wheeler, displaying an equal lack of fortitude, allowed the anarchist fringe to bring city council meetings to a grinding halt for weeks with ceaseless demands for the police chief’s ouster. And it took nothing more than an anonymous threat for Portland anarchists to force cancellation of this year’s 82nd Avenue of Roses Parade.

“It should have come as no surprise when anarchists began tossing Molotov cocktails, setting bonfires, defacing storefronts, shattering windows and pelting police again during the union movement’s annual May Day Parade, staged May 1 in Portland. After all, they openly recruited participants on social media sites.

“But the response from the self-proclaimed voice of the American worker was, distressingly, a condemnation of the police rather than the bomb-throwers who spoiled the party and soiled the cause.”

Those following the 50-plus days of protests in Portland this summer know they have been mostly peaceful and lawful. The righteous indignation of systematic racism and police brutality is warranted and deserving of cognitive discourse leading to legislation. 

But the ongoing inability — or unwillingness — on both sides to filter extremist views has lead to a fictitious narrative, to the point where “all cops are bastards” and hundreds of moms wearing yellow are nothing more than “Antifa in a new outfit.”

With a subsection of protesters and a president eager to fan the flames of the ongoing “urban warfare,” as Wheeler described what he felt Wednesday night, it is difficult to find hope in positive reconciliation. But find hope, we must. 


Don Dix

Wheeler's presence at the commotion was most likely a political stunt, but it obviously didn't go like he wished. Being booed by the crowd and then gassed by the feds couldn't have been on the play chart.

Then council member Hardesty accuses the police of 'planting fire-setters' in the demonstrations to detract from the cause. She since has retracted the claim, but not until the accusation gained footing. That's either clever or a disgusting use of the podium.

Portland's reputation as 'a place where young people go to retire' is on display night and day. By observation, many protesters seem young and able-bodied, but apparently not interested in seeking a job. That Portland has coddled this 'no responsibility attitude' feeds the desire to do nothing but bitch about anything, while the city leaders look for others to blame. A glance at a mirror would give the best view of the problem!


Don, I agree with you the Mayor didn't help himself or his city one bit by attending a riot and calling it a "listening session". I guess if nothing else he figured out it was actually, a riot. Not the sharpest tool in the shed by any means because he not only panders to those who most likely pay no taxes or very little conversely he shows no care or compassion for the businesses who are taxed to the gills. That's a great way to make Portland significantly less livable. The dominoes are falling and soon no one will be able to pick them up.

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