Over 24 hours this weekend, City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty issued two statements. The first denounced the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse on murder charges for killing two people amid riots in Kenosha, Wis. The second condemned the attack on a KATU-TV crew in Portland that damaged a television camera.
In between, about 150 leftists pelted the Multnomah County Justice Center with eggs and clashed with riot police on Nov. 19.
It was a small-scale protest by Portland standards, but as large as any per capita in the nation following the Rittenhouse verdict, as people shattered windows and Multnomah County sheriff’s deputies forcefully dispersed the crowd.
And the two statements from Hardesty encapsulate what has become a familiar pattern in this city: National outrage is followed by a display of property destruction by a small cadre of police abolitionists that again elevates Portland into national headlines.
If the Rittenhouse verdict was more deeply felt in Portland than elsewhere, that might be because this city is one of only a handful where political violence in the streets has turned fatal. Weeks after the Kenosha shooting, an anti-fascist named Michael Reinoehl shot and killed a Trump supporter named Aaron Jay Danielson outside a Portland parking garage. (An anti-fugitive task force later killed Reinoehl.)
At around 7:30 pm Friday, members of a crowd dressed in black to obscure their identities spray-painted the Justice Center. People chanted “Rittenhouse is guilty!” and “Kyle is a terrorist!” to the accompaniment of drums.
At 8:30 pm, members of the crowd pursued and yelled at a group of people leaving the Justice Center side entrance, believing that they were Portland police officers leaving the building for a shift change. The black bloc group gave up its pursuit when the officers entered the SmartPark building.
Members of the crowd then smashed windows of the Shana Gibbs website design office on the bottom floor of the building.
Around 8:45 pm, members of the crowd disassembled segments of the fencing around Chapman Square, and used the gathered materials to block the northeast garage door entrance of the Justice Center. This prompted a squad of nine Multnomah County sheriff’s deputies armed with less-lethal crowd control weapons to line up in the tunnel facing the driveway.
A standoff ensued, as deputies attempted to clear protesters from the entrance and close the gate. Members of the crowd yelled at the deputies on scene and threw bottles and other objects at the riot line.
Deputies tried several times to close the gates, but were unsuccessful because protesters blocked the gates. Sheriff’s deputies rushed the crowd twice, shoving the black bloc crowd back. In one instance, deputies pushed over a protester in a wheelchair in the scuffle.
At 9:05 pm, a Portland police long-range acoustics device vehicle declared a riot and ordered crowds to disperse to the west. (The riot, police later clarified, was declared by the sheriff’s office.) The crowd had diminished in size, and about 40 to 50 protesters remained at the intersection of Southwest 2nd Avenue and Madison Street.
Later in the night, KATU-TV reported that some members of the crowd had attacked a TV news crew and its hired security guards, damaging a camera. The reporters were not injured.
Hardesty, a longtime police critic, is so far the only member of the Portland City Council to denounce the attack on the journalists.
“People have a right to be upset, and the right to protest,” she wrote. “Just as protesters have a right to film the police or anything occurring in public, the press has the right to film what’s occurring in public. I’m still learning the full details of what occurred last night but want to make it clear that attacking or intimidating the press is never acceptable, such as what happened to a KATU crew last night.”
Her response to the Rittenhouse verdict was more succinct: “We have an injustice system in America.”