by Heather-Lynne Van Wilde
So, today’s been a bit of a wild day. Last night the police unilaterally decided that when they declare a protest an ‘unlawful gathering’ and close down miles of downtown, that the press is not allowed inside. Of course, if press did leave, there would be essentially zero oversight of any police actions, and since we already know they’re operating with impunity, that would be bad for any protesters remaining. The outcry from the independent press and even members of the organized press was swift and brutal.
By the next morning, even the mayor came out expressing ‘concern’ over police activities. Mind you, he’s also the Police Commissioner, so his words on Twitter should have been a strong warning to the police to stand down on their actions. So I watched with great anticipation the night’s activities. The fence was removed, purportedly with the goal of “show our willingness to have dialog”, and when the protests started, the messages on Twitter were actually shared by Multnomah County Sheriffs, who share the Justice Center with the city. I was cautiously hopeful, but what I saw didn’t fill me with confidence. There were no police responses of dialog with protesters, instead there were a dozen police in tactical gear, some pointing weapons at the protesters, shining lights in reporters cameras.
Of course, as the night went on, the normal few agitators in the large crowd of peaceful protesters did things they really shouldn’t do. A trash fire was lit in front of the UPS store on 3rd, and the police, in my opinion handled it properly. They cordoned the block itself to protect people, fire came and put it out, and they went back to their business. The protest continued for about another 20 minutes, when all of a sudden a reporter, Arex Johnson, was shot with an impact munition. At this time, still uncertain if it was a rubber bullet or a pepper ball or something else. Long enough passed for the on site medics to completely treat them before the police declared the protest ‘unlawful’ and to leave the area. At that point, they doubled down on their threats against reporters, threatening with arrest.
Shortly afterwards, flashbangs and concussion grenades were used, and outside the dispersal zone, a protestor was shot by a police officer in the head with an impact munition, and another reporter was attacked with a flash bang. Not long ago, news came out that police are now threatening press with arrest if they don’t move fast enough for them. Mind that some of us, like myself, are literally incapable of running. By myself I might be able to run for a block before I’m down on the ground, but with my walker that keeps me from falling, the machine is literally limited to about 3 mph. One can easily argue that the orders they’re putting out are unconstitutional, but they’re also treading close to ADA violations as well.
At this time protests are still continuing, both through residential areas as well as reporting happening at the Justice Center.