Two weeks before the next scheduled outdoor MMA fight downtown, Portland police are taking no chances. Dueling protests, between right-wing and left-wing groups, have been arranged at Tom McCall Waterfront Park on August 17. Neither side has bothered to ask for a permit. The police, tasked with keeping these groups apart, have frequently been outnumbered by Antifa demonstrators, and thus unable to complete their mission. This time, they’re apparently calling in backup, and lots of it.
This past week, Oregon’s U.S. Attorney, Billy J. Williams, met with everybody: Portland police, the office of Mayor Ted Wheeler, the city attorney, the Multnomah County district attorney, the FBI, Federal Protective Service, the Port of Portland, Gresham Police, the Multnomah County sheriff, Oregon State Police, “and others.”
“After what happened on the 29th of June, it’s time to step up, do something different,” he told The Oregonian. “We are working with our law enforcement partners and the mayor and others to address political violence.”
Police Chief Danielle Outlaw struck a similar tone. “Based on publicly-available information, the Bureau is concerned events on August 17 may involve persons interested in participating in criminal activity.” A Facebook page for “End Domestic Terrorism” attracted death threats in the comments. “We are taking this into account, and developing an appropriate plan with adequate resources to prepare for this eventuality.” Outlaw had previously pitched several changes to city and state law, including an anti-mask law. None have been forthcoming.
Also earlier in the week, Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner called for simply arresting anyone who marches without a permit. “It’s a simple formula: have enough police officers present on August 17th to protect peaceful First Amendment activities,” he said. “If laws are broken, if it turns violent, officers should be empowered with the resources to enforce the laws and keep the peace.” Calling for an “all-hands-on-deck” approach, Turner added, “we’ve all grown weary of excuses.”
The perceived leniency toward Antifa by Wheeler has been a cause celebre on the right, particularly among those located out of state. “Ted Wheeler has failed miserably,” says Florida talk radio host Joe Biggs on the EDT Facebook page. “He has allowed these domestic terrorists to commit acts of violence against the people of the United States.” Right-wing groups such as the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and 3 Percenters are expected to attend. They and others remain upset over scenes of journalist Andy Ngo, who was beaten by masked protesters on June 29th, which quickly went viral.
In apparent response, Rose City Antifa posted, “The Far-Right Plans to Invade Portland on August 17.” The notice calls on its members “to defend Portland against far-Right attack,” and to “tell these far-Right and neo-Nazi groups that they are not welcome in Portland, and their search for victims on our streets will not be tolerated.” Here too, there is the perception that the police aren’t doing enough, or are actively siding against them. It’s the only thing these groups seem to have in common. A year ago Sunday, a protester suffered a traumatic brain injury when a policeman hit him with a flash-bang grenade, penetrating his bike helmet.
Portland Police in general, and Chief Outlaw in particular, have often complained that they don’t have the numbers to keep Reds and Rightists from attacking one another. With 128 officer vacancies, and neighboring jurisdictions from Clackamas, Clark, and Washington counties refusing to help, she might have a point. That is to say, she has rejected any argument that her department is being deliberately constrained by decisions made by Mayor Wheeler or the city council. If she can get them, the extra manpower will put her theory to the test.