Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw is not satisfied with how reporters have covered the heavy-handed police response to antifascist counterprotesters at an Aug. 4 rally.
Today, she used a vivid analogy to make her point.
She told conservative talk-radio host Lars Larson she thought the protesters were acting like children who lost a schoolyard fight and had gone of to "whine and complain" after police fired flash-bang grenades, rubber bullets and pepper spray into a crowd of demonstrators. (At least two people were sent to the hospital with serious injuries after being hit directly with stun grenades launched by police, and many more have reported being hurt.)
"I tell you, 'Meet me after school at 3:00. Right? We're gonna fight'," Outlaw said, setting up the analogy to describe how she feels her critics are acting. "And I come with the intention to fight. And then you get mad because I kicked your butt. And then you go back and you wail off and whine and complain."
Patriot Prayer supporters and antifascist counterprotesters have brawled in Portland's streets several times in the past year, sometimes escalating protests into riots. In the weeks before the Aug. 4 events, observers had called on Portland police to prevent another bloody clash, and city officials pleaded with citizens to stay home.
The schoolyard comparison is just one of several bold statements Outlaw made during the interview. She also claimed she approached Mayor Ted Wheeler and told him she would sweep the Occupy ICE camp— and she says she "wasn't asking for permission."
WW transcribed the full interview, which touches on Outlaw's views on antifa, Patriot Prayer and its allies "who are believed to be white supremacists—if that's even the case," and Oregon's sanctuary laws. She also talked about being a black woman in power taking criticism from the left.
Here's the full conversation:
Lars Larson: Welcome back to the Lars Larson Show. It's a pleasure to be with you live on the Radio Northwest network. And I've been looking forward to this interview for some time. I'm joined in studio—and she was nice enough to come all the way over here to be able to talk with me in person—Chief Danielle Outlaw. How you doing chief?
Chief Danielle Outlaw: I'm great. Thanks for having me today.
LL: So now how long have you been here since Oakland?
DO: 10 months.
LL: 10 months. Is Oakland a tougher city or is Portland a tougher city?
DO: Similar issues, different cultures.
LL: Different, how different?
LL: Come on. We're not politically correct here.
DO: Neither am I. I'm just trying to find a very succinct way to say it. It's different in that, historically… The history is similar but it's different as far as how it's progressed over the years. So, Oakland is known, same thing, social, political activism. I would say that Portland is known for the same thing but I would think that how it's been addressed over the years is a little bit different.
LL: Well let's talk a little bit about the social, I guess, political or social activists: antifa. I want to know what you think and I want to know, let's start with this: Is antifa a terrorist group?
DO: That is not a soft toss, first of all. Second of all, you know, I don't have an opinion on whether any organization is a terrorist group. We focus on behaviors. And the same thing I said when asked about it early last week, you know, when I was asked whether or not I was focusing on one group versus another group. I made it very clear that I focus on behaviors. And at that particular time, that group is the group that was lobbing projectiles and setting off smoke bombs and, you know, showing up in flak jackets and bringing guns and wearing helmets. And, so, yes, that's where my attention went. Now, whether or not they're a terrorist group, I don't think that's for me to say. But I will say that their intention that day was to cause physical harm and confrontation.
LL: And it sounds like, and at least from my observation, you know, you can see from my studio I get to see a lot of this stuff happen right outside the building. I'm convinced antifa doesn't know I'm up here because I think if they did they might pay more attention to this building. But when I see people show up, armed, often with sort of improvised armament—I mean poles; they'll come with highway flares that they have on occasion thrown into police vehicles; they throw objects at police officers; and they scare people away from downtown Portland. That seems like a terrorist group to me.
DO: Well again, I'm not here to legally define what a terrorist group is. But you're absolutely right in your observations. And I've seen it in my time here and then also in my time in Oakland as well. And it's not just, you know, there was also some narrative around well, you know, 'They were prepared for confrontation. They came for confrontation.' Yeah, but I think it was they got confrontation but it's not who they wanted confrontation with, one. But there were also citizens there. It's not just they antagonized who disagrees with them at the time. If they were there to confront Patriot Prayer, which is what they said, there were also citizens there, Portland citizens, who also got caught up by that. Or if they yell out, or tell them to go home or whatever, they, you know, they get the short end. So it's not, their focus is against anyone who disagrees with what their ideology is.
LL: Do you know what their ideology is and what they're asking for? Because to me they seem like a bunch of anarchists who just don't want to follow the laws at all. That is, if they were out saying 'Save the whales' or 'stop the oil tankers' or 'stop the wars,' I mean I don't get a sense of a coherent message from them except when we're done things will be broken and people will be hurt.
DO: You know, I'm not a subject matter expert on them, but I will tell you this: The fact that I, as a very obvious African American female police chief, have been accused by those within that group or those who support that group, as being a supporter and protector of those who are believed to be white supremacists—if that's even the case—is ridiculous. Right?
LL: Yeah, I would agree with you.
DO: So when you ask me about whether I truly know what their ideology is, I don't know. Because that makes absolutely makes no sense. I mean, I went down there on Naito Parkway and they were yelling at me and calling me everything but my name. Saying 'How dare you.' 'You're a hypocrite.' 'How do you think other black people feel?' 'How do young black girls, how do you think they can look up to you now?' 'You're protecting white supremacists.' All these, I mean: Where is all of this coming from? So, you know, It's one thing to come out and speak out and exercise your right to free speech. But all that extra that they brought along with it, to me, completely railroads what they say and who they say they are.
LL: I'm talking to Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw. And, about antifa, before we leave that altogether—I want to give you a chance to get that water open. I hope I didn't give you dry mouth or anything like that—but I, these people drive me nuts. Does the mayor give you enough latitude as chief, to deal with these groups, not just in the incident that may be happening today, but some kind of long term strategy? Or are we going to have to watch this 'til the end of the Trump administration?
DO: You know, there has been a lot of focus on the mayor lately. And I would say, that he, from day one, when I came here and interviewed for the job, I asked him two questions. And one of those two questions was 'will you support me in what I need to do?' And he said yes, wholeheartedly. Since I've been here, he's been extremely supportive. When I step out and say, hey, we need to do this, he's very supportive of it.
But I think the focus needs to not only be on the mayor because he's the face of the city, but there are also other legislators, not just in the city but up through the state. I think the police department tends to be pulled in the middle of these things. And we're here to enforce the law. Legislators create the law, we take the law, and we enforce the law. We can't enforce what we don't have.
LL: Well, let me ask you this about enforcing the law. When it came to Occupy ICE, the law did not get enforced.
DO: Well, it depends on who you're speaking to. So, it was made very clear—at least I thought, and looking back in hindsight maybe it wasn't, because I had to come back out and try to clarify what was communicated very early on. It wasn't that we were not coming to answer calls—we, PPB—it wasn't that we weren't coming to answer calls for service. The direction was, that particular facility has their own police and their own resources. That will be their focus. We will allow the federal protective services and their federal police to focus on that. Anything else, we'll come to.
LL: And that was it?
DO: That was it.
LL: Do you think that led to good law enforcement in that situation?
DO: You know, I don't want to say good or bad. I will certainly say, when I went to the mayor and said 'Look, this isn't sustainable'—not just resource-wise, it's just out of control for many reasons—he was extremely supportive and said OK. I wasn't asking for permission to go out and clear this camp. I said 'This is what's going to happen and here's how it's going to happen.' And again I got the support to do that. So, it just, depending on who you speak to, for some, it took longer than they would have liked for it to occur. But I will say this, we worked with—we, PPB, I keep saying we—we worked with a lot of city partners. Commissioner Eudaly's office and her staff was instrumental with establishing communication and going and speaking with folks and letting them know that something is going to happen soon and here's why it's not okay for you to be here. Had that not been done, although it took longer and it stretched out the process a little bit longer than a lot of us would have liked, the cleanup would not have gone the way it went. By the time we got there, there was very little resistance at all. There were only a handful, maybe a dozen of people left, because of the communication that had taken place. So the slow, methodical approach really benefited us in the end because we didn't have to, again, there wasn't a lot of force used and again it was cleared out with very little incident. It could have gone another way.
LL: But if the message that is communicated from the police is 'We'll often let a situations like this go on for weeks, in the case of a previous Occupy in Portland months, before we act on it', it sounds like that's the kind of message that some people will take off and run with. And they're going to say 'Great, we can, the Portland police will let us get to the point where we have barricades set up and everything else.' That doesn't seem like a good way to approach it.
DO: And that's when it was cleared out. And that's when it was cleared out. Again, you know, my concern is the safety of everybody. And I don't want to, you know, I'm not going into all of our tactics, but I want to make sure that when we make a decision to move, we're going to do it at the best possible situation but at the same time in the most safe way that we can do it. And like I said, at the time that we went in and how we went in and the methodical process that was utilized to establish communication over the weeks, it really benefited us in the end as opposed to having to deal with far more resistance and far more people on the front end. To your point though, you know you kind of references antifa, you know, or whatever. I will say, just looking back at August 4, so we talked about culture, right, some of the differences that I've noticed. What really strikes me, and struck me last week was, the majority of the questions.
I made myself available to the media that Monday, the following Monday. I had already sent out two statements, and I wanted to have an opportunity to answer any direct questions that people had of me. And the majority of the questions that I got in that short amount of time where we were all available, not just me, a lot of the questions were focused on why we spent so much of our attention on one group versus the other. And after maybe about the fifth or sixth question, I don't know, it really just kind of, it took me aback because I said at what point do we hold accountable the people that are coming here and breaking the law. At what point do we question when a reporter says 'Yeah, I was there, we all heard the dispersal orders but nobody listens to that.' At what point does somebody say, "I was there to protest against white supremacy and I got caught up in all these things." We told you to leave. At what point does somebody say, "Well, why didn't you obey the dispersal order?" There's been no focus on that. But there's been focus on our tactics.
I tell people, we hold ourselves accountable. If we did something wrong, we own it. I own it. We'll take it. Because we don't want to continue on doing the same thing over and over again if we can find ways to improve moving forward. But at what point is there accountability to not only acknowledge the law and say that lawlessness is not okay.
That's what I mean, in the change in culture because, and I'll use this analogy: I tell you, 'Meet me after school at 3:00. Right? We're gonna fight. Right?'
LL: Yeah. [laughs] Yeah.
DO: And I come with the intention to fight. And then you get mad because I kicked your butt. And then you go back and you wail off and whine and complain because you thought when you left that you were going to come and be the victor. And that didn't happen. Nobody's calling that. Why?
LL: I know your time is limited, so let me ask you about something else. Would it make law enforcement work better in Oregon if Oregon voters this fall vote to eliminate the so-called state sanctuary law that I think is America's longest standing sanctuary law and allow you to say 'We've caught this person committing a crime, and it turns out he's illegally in the country.' You hand him to ICE, and ICE removes him from your community altogether. Oregonians will vote on that and I think they're going to vote to approve to get rid of that law. Will you vote for that law—that change?
DO: Now, I told you. Didn't I just tell you that I leave the politics to the politicians?
LL: But you are a voter?
DO: You know, I absolutely am a voter. I will tell you this: I don't believe that one has to do with the other. That's my personal belief but I'm wearing my uniform right now. My focus and my attention, again, is on behaviors. I don't care where you came from.
LL: But if your behavior is your presence in a place where you're not allowed to be—if I go to the Police Bureau, I'm not allowed to go upstairs without, say, Pete Simpson saying 'You can come upstairs.' If I come into the bureau illegally, I'm in a place I'm not legally allowed to be. If you find someone who is not legally allowed to be in my country, your country, shouldn't you remove that person and hand him off to the proper authorities?
DO: I don't choose to prioritize my time or my resources in that way. And this is a much larger discussion I think. Because of the resources we do have and we don't have, I have to focus on violent crimes and quality of life crimes, right? Not someone's mere presence. Presence doesn't bother me.
LL: Eighteen percent of the convicted rapists in Oregon prisons right now illegal aliens. Now, they're not 18 percent of the population but they're 18 percent of the convicted rapists. When you talk about violent crime, if you could have those illegals removed from the country before they rape, before they kill, before they commit other violent crimes against the citizens you're sworn to protect, isn't that a good thing?
DO: I wouldn't say it's a good or a bad thing. I will say that it's a small percentage. What happened? That's only 18 percent… That's a small percentage.
LL: Eighteen percent of the rapists in state prisons are illegal aliens is a small percentage, when they're maybe 3 percent of the population?
DO: What's left? 82—I'm not that good at math.
LL: Those are the citizens, yeah.
DO: No, but you're saying 18 percent of the rapists?
LL: Are illegal aliens. Convicted rapists sitting in prison today.
DO: So does that mean 82 percent of the rest are…
LL: Are citizens.
DO: But they're rapists?
DO: So, I would say that my resources go where the numbers take me. My resources go to 82 percent and not to 18 percent.
LL: And you won't say how you'd vote on sanctuary?
DO: Absolutely not.
LL: Don't you think you're a leader?
DO: Absolutely I'm a leader. But I'm not a politician.
LL: Okay. Chief Outlaw, it's a pleasure to see you. I hope you come back some time.
DO: Thank you.