On June 3, as marchers were still on the streets protesting police treatment, a black WW delivery driver says he was racially profiled by Portland police while restocking WW newspaper boxes in downtown Portland.
Greg Mitchell, 52, was on his regular delivery route through downtown, distributing papers in boxes along Southwest 6th Avenue and Alder Street shortly after midnight, when he tells WW he was stopped by a Portland police officer. Earlier that evening, five blocks away, police had used tear gas to scatter protesters, and the surrounding streets were filled with riot police and fleeing demonstrators.
Mitchell says he held a stack of 20 papers in his hand, and when he reached a metal newspaper box with display windows for eight publications, he noticed a smaller piece of paper that looked like trash sitting inside. He removed the scrap of paper from the box and refilled it with the new stack of WW editions. He took a few steps in the direction of his van, with the scrap paper in hand, when a police officer shouted at him.
He says he saw four officers standing around a squad car in riot gear.
Mitchell says one officer asked him what he was doing with a cigarette lighter. Mitchell wasn't holding a cigarette lighter, he says.
"Stop right there, get on your knees!" Mitchell recalls the officer saying. "Put your hands up!"
Mitchell, a Portland native who has delivered papers for WW for two months, says he did not get the name of the officer. He did what he was told and got on his knees while stating he wasn't holding a lighter. He says the officer accused him of trying to light the paper box on fire.
The officer, who Mitchell describes as a short, thin man in his 50s who was bald or had thinning hair, put hard plastic restraints—like zip ties but made of much tougher material—on Mitchell's wrists, binding them behind his back. The officer searched him and told him he might be going to jail for a citation. Mitchell described the officer's demeanor as aggressive.
Another police officer, a short woman with dark brown hair who Mitchell believes was in her 30s, walked up to them.
"I said, 'What am I supposed to do with my van? Is it supposed to get towed?'" Mitchell asked the woman. "I was kind of worried, but I kept my composure."
The second officer went to his van to confirm what Mitchell was saying was true—that he had about 70 bundles of WW editions in the back of the van. Meanwhile, Mitchell says, a crowd gathered and some people filmed the incident, shouting at the officers, telling them they were wrong for what they were doing.
Mitchell says the female officer checked his van and then approached another officer who had arrived and identified himself as a sergeant. Mitchell says he asked the sergeant for permission to get his wallet out of his van to retrieve his identification, but the sergeant asked for his name and wrote it down on a notepad instead.
The sergeant decided to let Mitchell go. The officer who originally accused Mitchell of trying to light the newspaper box on fire attempted to take off the restraints but instead made them tighter, pinching Mitchell's skin. The officer claimed he couldn't get them off and then tightened them even more a second time, Mitchell says.
He walked away from Mitchell to find an officer who had a special device designed to cut the restraints off.
"It was kind of upsetting. It seemed like he was trying to provoke me or get me to do something or get me to yell at him or something," Mitchell said. "It doesn't work with me like that."
Mitchell continued the rest of his route downtown, delivering all of his papers by 4 am. Mitchell says he did not get any of the officers' names or any form of identification. He does not have a copy of the video that bystanders took.
The Portland Police Bureau says it has no record of a police report related to the alleged incident involving Mitchell. A police spokesperson offered no further comment in response to WW's questions.
What Mitchell experienced was different from another newspaper delivery driver's evening.
Denis DeCourcey, a delivery driver for the Portland Tribune, who is white, delivered papers downtown the same night as Mitchell and had no issues. Both men perform the same task: They park at newspaper boxes, take out any remaining old papers and put a stack of new ones inside.
"As I did the rest of my route uptown, there were people scattered everywhere," DeCourcey said. "I had no contact with the police. Zero."
Mitchell felt he was racially profiled at a tense moment near the end of the night's protests, but he was glad to see witnesses filming what happened to him and hopes a video surfaces. (WW has not been able to find any of those witnesses.)
"I'm just glad by the grace of God that I'm still here, I didn't go to jail, and I was able to finish my route," Mitchell said. "It could've been hostile."