Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is using ice cream and free bike rentals to entice shoppers to return downtown after a visit from right-wing protesters Aug. 17 cost local businesses at least $3 million.
Last Saturday, Portland faced what promised to be a large clash between Proud Boys and antifascist protesters. The event ended up being relatively conflict-free, but it still drove customers away and hurt local businesses.
The weekend cost Portland businesses at least $3 million in foregone revenue and added expenses, according to Andrew Hoan, president of the Portland Business Alliance.
So City Hall is asking shoppers to return downtown Aug. 24, hoping to make up for lost revenue.
"Nothing says civic duty better than eating ice cream," said Hoan at a press conference hosted by the City of Portland today. He was backed by Mayor Ted Wheeler and commissioners Chloe Eudaly and Amanda Fritz, and an assembly of Portland Business Alliance representatives, some with e-scooters or bikes.
"Everything is free, what's not to like?" Hoan continued. "So come down, do your duty, spend your money in Downtown Portland. It is the greatest place to be on a Saturday to spend time with your families and help our economy."
Offerings include free rides from Portland Streetcar and BIKETOWN, free parking on downtown streets and in SmartPark garages and discounts from rideshare and scooter companies. The city expects more businesses to join in before the weekend.
Portland officials hope Saturday will be a change of pace from a weekend that left residents and business owners shaken.
"I sat in my office on Friday afternoon with my team, and made a decision to close our store, Whiz Bang, on Saturday," said Kim Malek, CEO of Salt and Straw. "At that moment, we felt really afraid. I felt afraid for my team, I felt afraid for my family, I felt afraid for our police and the community. And it was a really bad feeling."
In a statement issued shortly after the Aug. 17 rally, Proud Boy leaders Joe Biggs and Enrique Tarrio, both from Florida, said the financial blow was their goal—and why they would return on a monthly basis.
"The gathering was never about bringing carnage or violence to the City of Portland, it was about financially crippling the progressive hotbed until they take action against Antifa and showcasing the power of peaceful political action," Biggs and Tarrio said in a statement.
Wheeler said the city now wants to send a message to Portlanders, and to its critics across the nation.
"What we're doing is reclaiming our space from disruption, from the potential of chaos, from the potential of violence and the fear that we were all feeling last Saturday," Wheeler said. "We want to get back to being us … having our city be for us, and enjoy[ing] it the way that we expect to enjoy our city."