Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty issued a measured rebuke Wednesday to Mayor Ted Wheeler’s call for a crackdown on black bloc marchers who smash windows, saying the city shouldn’t expect peace until it disciplines police officers who thrashed protesters last summer.
Hardesty issued her statement in response to April 23 remarks by Wheeler in which he called for higher bail for marchers who damage property, asked citizens to report the license plate numbers of vehicles carrying people dressed head-to-toe in black, and suggested Reed College expel a student if he’s convicted of rioting.
“We join prominent civil rights organizations such as the Oregon ACLU in denouncing these comments,” Hardesty wrote April 28. “This moment in history is not calling for increased punitive action, higher bail, a citywide atmosphere of suspicion, using words that could be interpreted as calls for vigilantism, or calling for a reversal of our sacred civil right that people are innocent until proven guilty.”
In chiding Wheeler, Hardesty waded into an ongoing civic debate about Portland policing and the nighttime protests by a group of roughly 100 leftists who damage property to express their contempt for cops. City officials and activists have fiercely debated whether Portland should curb its police officers or tame destructive marchers. That argument has intensified after a police officer fatally shot Robert Delgado, a man living in Lents Park, on April 16.
Hardesty essentially said city leaders can walk and chew gum at the same time.
She repeated her previous condemnation of property damage and arson during protests, and said the mayor should work with Portland police to use existing laws to prosecute people who vandalize storefronts, museums and churches.
But she argued that Wheeler should not expect public anger to subside until officers who used excessive force on protesters last summer are called to account.
“The mayor must promote healing,” she wrote. “Healing starts with accountability. To lower community tensions, Portland deserves accountability for the [Portland Police Bureau] officers that engaged in misconduct during the large Black Lives Matter protests we witnessed in Portland last summer.”
At least five officers were suspended from street duty for tackling, shoving or punching protesters last summer. No disciplinary actions have been announced in any case of officer misconduct stemming from those incidents.
The mayor’s office has not issued a response to Hardesty.
Her remarks arrived at a moment when antagonism between the mayor and the city’s most radical activists has reached new intensity. On Friday night, the mayor’s director of strategic innovations, former Mayor Sam Adams, engaged in a flurry of online arguments with progressives—including calling one activist a homophobe for criticizing him. On Wednesday evening, an anonymous Twitter account posted a glossily produced video that ended with Wheeler’s home address and a death threat.