City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty tonight told a crowd of thousands on the Portland waterfront that she will secure the votes to cut two more police units out of the city budget.
Hardesty said the Portland City Council will vote Wednesday, June 10, to eliminate the budget allocations for transit police on TriMet trains and buses as well as the Gun Violence Reduction Team—once known as the Gang Enforcement Unit.
Already this week, Mayor Ted Wheeler yielded to demands to remove school resource officers from high schools in three Portland school districts. And Commissioner Chloe Eudaly this evening pledged to bar cannabis taxes from being used for police budgets, among other reforms.
Hardesty credited a week of political uprising in the city streets.
"I did not have those three votes to remove those three units," she told the protesters. "Until you."
It was not immediately clear who the other votes on the City Council would be, although Eudaly has signaled extensive support for such budget cuts.
Hardesty's remarks were the latest signal of how much political leverage police departments and their unions have lost in American cities after a week of brutally cracking down on protests. Calls to defund the police are growing nationwide—and in Portland, Hardesty predicts they'll lead to the elimination of at least three police units.
"Let me be crystal clear," Hardesty said tonight of the removal of school officers. "It is because of you. You've got policymakers shaking in their boots. They said, 'What can we do?' And I said, 'I've got some ideas.'"
Hardesty, the first black woman elected to the Portland City Council, is a longtime critic of the Gun Violence Reduction Team, which for years arrested black people at a disproportionate rate and kept a secret list of suspected gang members. She has tried to eliminate the unit before, only to see it protected with pledges of reform.
Hardesty said she had received 12,700 emails this week from constituents supporting her call for defunding police units. "I have been advocating for police reform for 30 years," she said. "But I feel like a teenager when I see you on the street. Please don't stop now. Don't stop."
That call was a striking reversal of her plea to protesters earlier this week that they stay home to reduce looting, property destruction and chaos that she feared would trigger a violent police response. She asked the city to draft a curfew, which Wheeler issued to keep people home.
Hardesty had expressed fears that street chaos, particularly the riots, would block her lifelong efforts to secure police reform. On Monday, she backed off supporting curfews. And she seemed tonight to sense that the uprising had become a force that could push through the reforms she championed.
But it remains a protest movement with differing aims and tactics.
Tonight, Tom McCall Waterfront Park once again hosted thousands of demonstrators who marched across a bridge—this time, the Hawthorne—to pledge, sometimes in unified chants, to resist in the streets until police violence ended. Tonight's crowd included a slight variation: three protesters in kayaks on the Willamette River, waving "Black Lives Matter" flags.
Three blocks away, in front of the Multnomah County Justice Center, a more strident group heckled Wheeler when he promised an upcoming announcement about future use of tear gas on protesters.
That crowd was growing as night fell. People pressed against the chain-link fence that cordoned off the Justice Center. Someone banged a drum. A group of white teenagers "baited" fishing poles with doughnuts and waved them over the fence to taunt officers.
As it has every night since Monday, portions of the crowd drifted over at nightfall from the more pacific scene on the waterfront to the standoff at the Justice Center. One young man saw hundreds of people gathered under police spotlights, and momentarily stopped his bicycle in an intersection.
"Fuck yeah," he said. "It's not stopping."