Portland’s mayor and acting police chief on Friday urged the public to safely stand up to the black bloc group of violent demonstrators who continue to plan “direct actions” around the city that routinely end with shattered windows, fires and other vandalism.
Both said they believe residents are fed up watching the threats and destruction by a small group of “self-described anarchists.”
“They want to burn,” Mayor Ted Wheeler said. “They want to bash, like they did to the nonprofit Boys and Girls Club in Northeast. Really they want to intimidate. They want to assault.
“If BLM leaders can show the courage to stand up to this mob, then we all should. … Make a stand and take our city back,” he said.
Wheeler asked residents to note the license plates of people who drive to the events in various neighborhoods and then don all black clothing and grab shields or weapons from their cars. Share those license numbers with police, he said.
If people overhear others bragging about the violence they committed in the city, report it, he said.
“Our job is to unmask them, arrest them and prosecute them,” he said.
“When somebody attacks a church that serves the LGBTQ community and homeless populations, they’re going to talk about it,” he said. “When somebody attacks the Boys and Girls Club, which focuses on youth of color in our community, they’re going to talk about it.”
On Monday night, a group of about 80 people gathered in Northeast Portland and some smashed windows at the Blazers Boys & Girls Club, causing nearly $20,000 in damage to the club.
A week ago Friday night, a large demonstration downtown erupted into a riot that left the front windows of the First Christian Church broken, anti-police messages scrawled on the exterior of the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall and windows smashed at the Oregon Historical Society, the second time vandals have targeted the public building.
Wheeler said he was extending a state of emergency in the city and directed the Police Bureau to arrest people engaged in any crimes if they can do so safely to prevent and limit destruction. He said he supported police using the controversial “kettling” tactic — boxing in people — if necessary. The state of emergency will last until Monday.
The mayor had declared a state of emergency earlier in the week just before the guilty verdicts were announced Tuesday against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the May 25 death of George Floyd.
The order gives him the power to set a curfew, blockade streets or call in extra officers from the Oregon State Police and Oregon National Guard, if deemed necessary.
Wheeler and Acting Police Chief Chris Davis spoke out just hours before another direct action was called in Couch Park in Northwest Portland. A flier circulated advertising the “autonomous demonstration” and exhorted followers to “Bloc Up!” with “no streamers” and “no megaphones.”
The two expressed frustration with the handling of some alleged repeat offenders, noting that people have been arrested multiple times without any significant consequences. Officials from the Police Bureau and Mayor’s Office met with Multnomah County prosecutors on Thursday to address their concerns.
Earlier in the week, District Attorney Mike Schmidt sent out a videotaped statement, calling the violence and property destruction in the city “unacceptable.” He said his office is continuing to prioritize cases against those causing the most harm.
“These harmful and criminal acts do not align with our community values. The First Amendment gives everyone the right to gather and to voice their opinions—whether we agree or overwhelmingly rebuke those beliefs,” Schmidt said. “As District Attorney, I will always defend a person’s right to free speech, but I will not defend nor support anyone who knowingly, recklessly or intentionally destroys property or engages in violence.”
Davis highlighted the case of one 23-year-old who has been arrested three times since last June during civil unrest.
On June 21, Kaiave James Douvia was arrested, accused of advancing on and pushing an officer, according to Davis. He was released on his own recognizance and the case was “no complainted,” or dropped, on Aug. 24, according to court records.
Portland police rearrested Douvia on Nov. 2, when he was accused of breaking the window of a business with a tire iron. The charge was dropped the next day. He was arrested a third time on Jan. 20, accused in the window-smashing at the Democratic Party headquarters in Portland, police said.
Brent Weisberg, a spokesman for the district attorney, said Douvia’s June arrest is being reviewed, and the allegations made against him in November and January are pending grand jury review.
“If you break windows, spray-paint obscene or threatening things on other people’s property or city facilities, light fires or attack our police officers, you can expect to be arrested and to be prosecuted,” Davis said.
But even as Davis promised people would be held accountable, he and the mayor have pressed for the District Attorney’s Office to reexamine cases of repeat offenders and consider restating charges previously dropped. The cases of particular concern are those involving people accused of smashing windows and lighting fires, Davis said.
Wheeler said: “We’d like to see higher bail for those who are arrested after this kind of activity. We’d like to see tougher pretrial restrictions on those individuals so they don’t just pop right back onto the street and participate the next day. For those who are repeat offenders, I’d like to see tougher sentences.”
The mayor and acting chief said they were pleased the district attorney’s office would go back and review some prior arrests that resulted in dropped charges.
The district attorney’s office continues to have regular meetings with police and the mayor and “believes our partnership is valuable in responding to the violence and property destruction,” Weisberg said. “The Portland Police Bureau has communicated to us -and the public – their commitment in making targeted arrests for people engaged in violence and property destruction – the cases the district attorney has said are his priority.”
Bail is set by a county circuit judge, and sentencings are handled on a case-by-case basis with an “appropriate sentencing recommendation,” made by the state to the court, Weisberg added.
The mayor also urged others in the community to do their part to cut down on the violence and punish those responsible. Davis stressed that police won’t go after people just because they’re dressed in all black clothing and would make arrests only if people are involved in alleged crimes.
Without naming the person arrested, Wheeler identified one repeat arrestee “as a student at one of the nation’s most expensive elite private universities” in Portland. He said he hoped if that person is convicted of violence that the school would expel him.
Asked what’s different about their pronouncements Friday compared to earlier condemnations of violent demonstrations, Wheeler said he believes Portland is at a “turning point.”
With more people getting vaccinated, schools partly opening and businesses wanting to reopen gradually, he said he’s noticed that smaller groups of demonstrators are taking to the streets.
The community’s tolerance for the destruction also is at a low, he said.
“People are sick and they are tired of destruction and I’m encouraging the public to help,” Wheeler said.
— Maxine Bernstein
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