A call from Occupy ICE Portland to keep the pressure on the police and city council in the wake of the brutal police attacks on antiracist protesters on August 4th.
On July 24, members of Patriot Prayer showed up at the Occupy ICE encampment to intimidate activists while they were trying to pack up ahead of the police sweep that came in the early hours of July 25. We were not the only encampment to be visited by a far-Right group.
On August 4th, Portland Police randomly began to fire less lethal rounds at counter-protesters during a Patriot Prayer demonstration. Contrary to what the police are saying, all accounts from witnesses say there were no projectiles thrown at officers until after they deployed flash bangs.
These two events signal an escalation of police cooperation with and utilization of members of the far-Right as a de facto paramilitary force reminiscent of the squadristi in fascist Italy. The police provide cover and offer up an official story, while far-Right groups carry out the dirty work for them. A review of police actions at last year’s June 4th rally (which culminated in police kettling 200 people and unlawfully photographing their IDs) found a bias to view far-Right individuals more favorably.
Potential targets thus become any migrants and refugees, womxn, POCs, and leftists. Street attacks have already begun. After the August 4 demonstration, we also heard some very telling comments from the police chief wherein she ridicules protesters who were critically injured by police officers and brags about “kicking their butts.” This should be seen as exactly the same kind of dog whistle commentary we’ve heard from the president (especially when he declared that Charlottesville had violence on both sides), with exactly the same kind of outcome. This language only serves to embolden the far-Right to act more aggressively. As we head closer to a fully realized fascist state, we must see these instances for what they are and call them out as such.
With that in mind, we intend to make two demands of City Council this Wednesday. First, we demand Mayor Wheeler terminate the city’s contract with Police Chief Outlaw, as she has demonstrated a reckless bias which illustrates a lack of impartiality when dealing with protesters. We believe her rhetoric will only incite more violence, either at the hands of the police or far-Right individuals.
Secondly, we call for an immediate halt on the use of all less lethal munitions by the Portland police. We demand that they prove, through independent third party testing which utilizes simulations of an urban area, that these weapons are safe to use before deploying again. The International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations released a report two years ago documenting countless examples of the negative health consequences of such ammunition. ProPublica describes in graphic detail what can happen to individuals injured by flash bangs.
Even Charlie Mesloh, a former cop, argues that less lethal rounds should not be used by police forces without extensive training and in house testing. With all this research pointing out the dangers and suggesting that these weapons should not be used on the public, we feel it is imperative that Portland police cease use of them. If these weapons are so important to their crowd control strategy, then the burden of proving their safety rests on the police.
Wednesday is the next city council meeting. There are four time slots: 9:30AM, 12:30PM, 2PM, & 5PM. We intend to be there to be heard. We encourage others to show up. Demand the termination of Danielle Outlaw’s contract. Demand the restriction of all less lethal rounds. Demand the police be accountable to the people and not the far-Right.
*A note on our thoughts on the police and showing up at city hall: we believe abolition of the police is the only way our communities will ever be safe. We recognize that to even get to that point of the discussion, we must build a strong mass movement. That requires meeting people where they are at. While we would like to see the police department dismantled today, we know that many people have been indoctrinated to see them as protectors. To counteract that indoctrination, we must take strategic steps towards abolition, with achievable goals that are designed to seem reasonable to as many people as possible without watering down our intentions too much. As our message resonates with more people, we will have the opportunity to expose them to further examples of what living without the police can look like and evidence of why it is necessary we move in that direction.
With regards to city hall, politicians are snakes. We learned from the liberal co-opting that happened at camp that politicians are never to be trusted. However, we also know that causing disruptions and keeping the spotlight on this issue will keep it in the media and grow the conversation. We do not intend to make concessions to these politicians, nor do we really care what they think about our demands. Rather, our goal is to get our message to as many people as possible so that the idea will take seed and begin to sprout.