I wasn’t anticipating needing to write this piece today, but events over the last few days have forced my hand.
Lately I have been seeing an increase in groups trying to sow division in other groups. This has happened on the protester side, like the spontaneous creation of the Portland Protest Bureau on Twitter, and the subsequent claims that they were coordinating with police and federal officers for their protest, everything that happened with Rose City Justice, and so on.
I’m also seeing this happening in the reporting and intel groups as well. One reporter puts information out about another reporter, just shy of a doxx, claiming that a reporter is a snitch, or certain groups that document police action are untrustworthy, and such things. I wish to put a few of my personal thoughts to e-ink on this.
Firstly, while the goal wasn’t to give press special rights in the Woodstock v. City of Portland case, the current TRO exempting press from dispersal orders did give press a let up that may have been questionable otherwise. But then when I’m getting reports that protesters are expecting to be able to use press as ‘shields’ for other protesters, I have an issue here. While most if not all reporters down there share common beliefs with the protesters, our primary job is documenting the news. To show the struggle of what’s going on. There is no guarantee that we will be where you want us to be. In fact, using us as a shield may cause us to be considered ‘interfering with police’ and get -us- detained as well. If a reporter is okay with this, fine, but please don’t assume we will all be able to be.
A similar issue comes up with the documentation that reporters are doing. I have been seeing and hearing many complaints about protester faces being captured in the press lens. That generally is regrettable. The people that I work with by and large are attempting to watch the police. There are hundreds of protesters that may be interacting in the field of view of a camera at any time. While we can make a good faith effort to keep protester faces out of view, it’s impossible to be 100%, doubly true on a live stream. We simply don’t have the capability to blur faces in real time when streaming using cell phones. Any kind of rebroadcast option that might give a small bit of delay to help cover up faces would require equipment and people that we don’t have the funding or means to field. However, the same steps that we, as a society, are supposed to be taking for COVID-19 also works very well for anonymity: Wearing your mask. A mouth and nose covering blocks up a large portion of your face, and a hoodie or goggles will do a lot more to make things difficult.
We know that the police watch our live streams in real time. A few weeks ago, I was listening to the police scanner as they were trying to follow protesters after a march in Pearl, and within seconds of the last livestreamer for the night saying he was getting ready to sign off, we heard an officer over the radio confirm that the protests were done for the night. They can watch and record our livestreams, and they don’t need a warrant because they’re in ‘public view’
The last thing I want to address with these things is the division that we’re having due to counter-intelligence. It’s no secret there are BLM and/or Antifa types that are infiltrating and monitoring Proud Boy, Patriot Prayer and Back the Blue type groups to have an idea of things that they plan to do to disrupt the protest. It makes complete sense that they’re doing the same with us. So then we have to try to sniff out the fake people and show them the door. But it seems that there’s been a lot of false positives in that lately. And some of it I think comes down to differences in ideals and tactics. If you see someone who claims to support your goal, but maybe not certain things that have been done, does that make them a snitch? Or are they just coming at this from a different direction. For the press, we may document things and use them in such a way that the group as a whole may not agree with. But the sometimes the full truth can help a cause. As an example, the night barricades were put up at the North Precinct, there were some people who attempted to start a fire. Some may support this, others will not. But without video showing that it was a few people, and that other protesters tried to put the fire out, it reduces the ability for the government types to spin the story as ‘all the protesters decided to burn down the building.
Press on the ground are already fighting against a societal distrust of the press due to spin, and protesters are facing a difficult battle because there are powerful entrenched interests who do not want systemic racism to be addressed, who do not want police to be defunded, who are happy to see the brutality unfolding at this very moment as I write.
The better we can work together, the better the chance we have of winning in the long run.
Heather Van Wilde