Commissioner Chloe Eudaly Asked Portland Police A Series of Questions About Past Protests. They Declined to Answer Most of Them.

The commissioner said she found some of the answers “alarming.”

Portland police form a riot line at an Aug. 4 protest. (Sam Gehrke)

In the midst of a tense City Hall meeting over a proposal to restrict Portland's warring protesters, Commissioner Chloe Eudaly pursued an aggressive line of questioning about past police actions at protests.

She said she would be giving the Police Bureau a list of even more questions from her, constituents and advocacy groups. She plans to share the answers with the public.

Read our cover story on Chief Danielle Outlaw and the mayor's plan to control protests.

Eudaly's questions came amid a contentious debate over a plan by Mayor Ted Wheeler to give police more power to restrict protests. They presented a remarkable sight: A sitting city commissioner articulating the frustrations voiced for more than a year by left-wing activists.

As right-wing agitator Joey Gibson has led crews of right-wing marchers into Portland looking for fights, they've been met by masked antifascists. Those leftists feel they've been treated more harshly by police.

Eudaly's questions—at times prosecutorial—traced that narrative.

First, Eudaly asked: How many lawsuits is the city fighting related to police use of force against demonstrators, and how much money has defending these suits cost Portland?

Deputy City Attorney Robert Taylor answered: Thirteen, but the suits don't cost anything to defend because the city has staff attorneys. (Eudaly replied that the lawyers could be spending their time on other things if these lawsuits hadn't been filed.)

That was the last clear answer she would get. She continued to ask a series of questions to the Police Bureau and City Attorney's Office—but police command staff said they didn't have that information or were barred from answering by legal actions.

She asked why the police bureau treats protesters who do not obey dispersal orders, but are not engaged in violence, as "fair game" for riot cops to shoot with exploding munitions and pepper spray.

Assistant Chief Ryan Lee replied that when people ignore a dispersal order, they break the law.

Then Eudaly asked if it was true that police always ordered left-wing counter-demonstrators to disperse rather than issuing that order to right-wing groups like Patriot Prayer. Deputy Chief Bob Day replied that he could not speak to whether that "always" happens.

Eudaly asked whether any members of Patriot Prayer had ever been severely injured by police munitions, like antifascist protesters were on Aug. 4. Day replied that he didn't have that information on hand.

She asked why some members of the bureau told investigators at the Independent Police Review that far-right extremists seemed "more mainstream" than their left-wing opponents. The bureau did not offer an explanation.

She said she did not understand, more than a year later and after a city review, why police had kettled and photographed the IDs of more than 300 counterprotesters on June 4, 2017. Taylor said the city could not comment because that incident was the subject of an ongoing legal battle. (The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon sued the city on behalf of several protesters and a legal observer who was kettled.)

Finally, she asked why police had not intervened when officers found four right-wing Patriot Prayer supporters on the roof of a parking garage with what Mayor Ted Wheeler described as a "cache of firearms." 

Lee said the men had permits for the guns, and they were not breaking any laws that would allow officers to confiscate the weapons or detain the individuals.

Eudaly, visibly shocked, said she found that answer "alarming."

City Council won't vote on the mayor's proposed ordinance until next week. Eudaly said tonight that she would vote no.

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