The Lead Up
Before we get into what exactly happened yesterday and why it occurred we need to set the scene. If you live in Portland and were not aware of the planned invasion of white supremacists into your community just a week after one of them murdered two heroes on our public transportation system, you must have been living under a rock. But I don’t blame you, that privileged rock is probably pretty comfortable right now. Some of us don’t have that luxury. White supremacy in Portland is threatening our existence every single day. But maybe you have been out of town or you don’t live here in Portland. So, I’ll attempt a far too short synopsis of the days leading up to yesterday’s violence:
A white supremacist killed two people on a Portland train because they stood up to him for harassing two young black women, one of whom was Muslim. That same terrorist had been photographed attending a rally by a group called Patriot Prayer which is actually just one single wannabe professional wrestler who screams loud enough that people on the right really admire him. This guy, Joey Gibson, then went against the wishes of the slain martyr’s family, the mayor and any decent person in the world and decided to hold another hate filled rally in the same city where the murders just occurred. And let’s be really clear, this isn’t his city. He doesn’t live here and same with the vast majority of his attendees. They are just real-life trolls. And just in case anyone made the mistake of thinking this was actually all about free speech, Joey invited Kyle ‘Based Stickman’ Chapman, a convicted violent felon who rose to fame by beating up anti-fascists with a stick, Baked Alaska who advocates for exterminating the Jews and other white supremacists who were all looking for a fight. The mayor wanted the permit to be yanked by the feds, the ACLU of Oregon defended the terrorists right to terrorize, the permit didn’t get yanked and the event went on yesterday. However, counter protests were organized to show that Portland does not welcome this form of hate. In fact, Portland’s longstanding form of acceptable white supremacy is simply electing people who will uphold it. If you diverge from that form of fascism us liberals will protest the hell out of you! But we can get into that another time.
I arrived at the rally right at the scheduled time and by then the fascists were already outnumbered 10–1. That is beautiful but also not the point of this article. For feel good sentiments about Portland standing up to hate reach out to the mayors office. For the truth, continue reading. Anyways, those numbers held for the entire day. While Joey Gibson’s group stayed inside a small federally owned park, the people of Portland surrounded the park in a peaceful manner to counter the hate. The police lined up with their backs to the white supremacists, facing the people of Portland. I could write more about that but honestly by this point you shouldn’t be surprised by it. I walked around to all corners of the counter protest waving and hugging all the familiar faces I see at most of the rallies. However, I also saw a lot of new faces. A lot of people seemed to be awakened by the murders and wanted to go show up for the victims. The largest concentration of good guys was in Chapman Square which is adjacent to the park in which the police were guarding the hate rally. I’d say there were about 1,500 people in that park and maybe 3-4,000 total counter protestors. After talking with the good guys for some time I decided I would try and get in the alt-right rally to see what they were actually talking about. I can’t stress enough how scared I was as I entered. I filmed them all the while being weary that I was giving them too much of a platform. I was confronted probably around 5 times (I’m black). I don’t think there was a single second where I wasn’t being pointed at. Multiple times I was told I didn’t belong and should leave. Finally, I walked up to Joey Gibson who I had met at a Black Lives Matter rally in October (where he was surprisingly diplomatic) and asked him if I could stay without being killed. He told me I could stay if I didn’t start anything to which I replied that I just wanted to document their rally.
The rally had “security” which was made up of “proud boys” militia members, oath keepers and III%’s. For those who don’t know, that is basically a nice way of saying that white supremacists were the ones securing their rally. You shouldn’t be surprised at that either though. Whenever an altercation of any sort would happen they would assist the police officers in whatever they were doing, clear the scene of any bystanders by physically assaulting them and then tell people to let them do their jobs. In short, they were working with the police. But it wasn’t like simply snitching to the police when they saw something. I mean literally working with the police. As in tackling people, handcuffing people, and clearing entire areas. The cops acted as if the alt-right was Portland’s Justice League of vigilantes. They even had the silly costumes.
Before the speakers began they had some guy with a manufactured southern accent sing a couple of country songs, then he attempted to sing the national anthem but he forgot the words (I can’t make this stuff up). After that Joey Gibson came yelling about how this was a peaceful event and it was all about love before he invited some people up to do an ancient war dance (irony not lost here). After the war dance, Joey yelled for a good ten minutes which is when I first realized I was literally at a WWE match. This is professional wrestling in real life. The guy literally sounds like Randy Savage, the whole rally is saturated with ultra-machismo characteristics, they have silly warrior costumes, they have dramatic hero tales, they have weird nicknames, they do war dances, they have flashy introductions, and most importantly…. It’s all fake. Ya, you guessed it. The free speech rally people didn’t really care about free speech, they weren’t actually peaceful, they weren’t actually building a movement of love. After Baked Alaska came up and started talking about White Pride and how happy he was to be 100% white I decided I needed to leave for my own safety.
As soon as I stepped outside of that rally I exhaled. I couldn’t believe what I had just saw in the heart of Portland. I was shocked by the high fives I had seen between police and white supremacists. I know that the alt-right and police have tremendous respect for one another but I thought they would maybe attempt to conceal it for at least this event. At one point, I even saw them playing a game of football with the cops. As a ‘proud boy’ threw the football at one of the officers I thought about what would happen if I threw a ball at police and how many people would get hurt in the resulting violence.
Still trying to get the taste of hate speech out of my mouth I walked back into Chapman Square where I thought I was finally safe from white supremacy. I should have known better. Turns out I left right before the hate rally was about to conclude. The snowflakes that they are, they didn’t want to be yelled at on their way back to wherever they came from (i.e. not Portland). So, police decided to start pushing people into the middle of Chapman Square. I heard them all yell, “move to the middle of the park”. Then the police line that had been facing the good guys all day slowly started marching forward with their batons out. I was face to face with an officer, he was black too. I thought maybe I could get some humanity out of him. I looked at him and said I couldn’t move any faster because there were people behind me. He told me to turn around and keep walking. So, I turned around and instantly felt the baton in my back. But there was no way to go forward because the park was full. A few seconds of being jabbed in the back continued before I heard the first flash bang. Then all hell broke loose.
Tear gas filled the middle of the park where police had ordered us to go. Yes, to make it clear for you: police deployed chemical weapons into the area they were forcing us into. I couldn’t open my eyes. As I heard cries of “I can’t breathe” I couldn’t help but think of the murder of Eric Garner. This was an entire crowd of peaceful protestors that had literally done nothing wrong. Their only crime was standing up to white supremacy in a peaceful way. I started running trying to get away from tear gas but I couldn’t see anything.
I accidentally ran into pepper spray that had just been deployed at someone who was laying on the ground. I turned the other direction and continued running, then I heard “Greg at your feet!” I didn’t have time to react before a flash bang went off on my foot. I couldn’t hear anything other than a ringing noise and chants of “USA” from the nationalist who were cheering on the police. I couldn’t see but then someone put me on my knees. I wasn’t sure if it was a cop, a white supremacist, a protestor or a medic until they started pouring something into my eyes and I realized that some bystander was trying to fix me up so that I could get out of there.
However, they couldn’t finish the job. As they were pouring a solution into my eyes I heard, “Rubber Bullets!” and people started running. People next to me where falling as they ran from the pain of these rounds. Finally, I got to the road and police had formed a line. At this point I started hearing, “the park is closed” from the police loud speaker. Which was ironic because that is where they had told us to go, the middle of the park. Medics and bystanders started tending to all of the people who were hurt and a barricade was formed to stop police from furthering the damage. Every once in a while, a few people would get shot by rubber bullets, the cops were laughing as if they were at target practice. They continued to shoot people with these rounds, often times at point blank range, for the rest of the day. They shot at people who just simply trying to get away. They even shot people who were detained.
Fascists yelling, "USA USA USA" while police are utilizing flash bangs...this is 20 minutes after they directed us to…
I saw a van full of riot police leave the scene which I thought was odd given the crowd was all there. Then we kept getting told to move North away from the park. That’s when it hit me that they were planning on marching us into more cops. That van I saw leave was headed to cut us off. Eventually the entire group moved north but it only got a few blocks before that van of riot cops cut us off and swarmed in on everyone. I escaped into a parking garage but a lot of my friends were in that group that was detained including my girlfriend Kat Stevens. Everyone, including her, was detained for close to an hour as police took pictures, ID’s and recorded everyone’s name. During that hour I saw one person try and run away before they were peppered with rubber bullets. Police didn’t care to run and catch him, they just wanted to punish him. In Ted Wheeler’s Portland, the police are the judge, jury and executioner. They then let most people go. I would say over 200 people were detained but it could have been more. Among them were legal observers and journalists. Police say they made 14 arrests.
I was entirely peaceful. I was only there to show my opposition to fascists and to document the event. I recorded the entire thing. However, for some reason my eyes are still stinging, my ears are still ringing and my back still hurts from police batons. Of course, the official line from the police is that someone threw something (definitely a lie) and that is why they had to hurt over a thousand innocent people. Let’s suppose for a second that someone did throw something. Did we all have our hands on that object? Of Course not. Yet thousands of people have to get beat up because one person is falsely accused of a crime?
None of our other rights work like this. What if Ted Wheeler and the police decided that since someone committed a murder with a gun last night that they are going to pepper spray, tear gas, flash bang and beat everyone who peacefully exercises their Second Amendment right because ONE person messed up. People would be up in arms. But for some reason we think that is acceptable behavior when dealing with The First Amendment? The First Amendment is first for a reason. A lot more people have voices than guns. Oh, and to the white supremacists who claim to be for free speech. Where were you when I was getting beat up by the police for simply being at a political rally? If you really cared about free speech you would be defending our rights too. You don’t… but we already knew that. When will the rest of America wake up? When are we going to realize it isn’t what you say but what you do. The alt-right claim to be for love, peace and free speech but don’t stand for any of that. Why is it that Portland has accepted that they are lying but hasn’t yet made the same realization of Ted Wheelers fake statements. If Ted Wheeler cared about the people of Portland, our rights, our safety and the strength of our community, he would be acting right now. Remember how he ran on reform? Where is it?
So, what now? What can we do? First, we need answers. We need to examine the legality and constitutionality of white supremacists teaming up with police to hurt people. We need to thoroughly examine the Portland Police policies in terms of protests and crowd control and completely reform them. We need to know who gave the orders for the unconstitutional detention of peaceful protesters and that person needs to be fired. We need to know what PPB is doing with the list they obtained of people who they detained and what case or file it is going to be used for. We need to know why these weapons were deployed on a peaceful crowd. We need to know what forms of co-operation happened between PPB and The Trump Administration including the Department of Homeland Security. Why were police facing the counter protesters all day? We also need a new police chief. In no way is Mike Marshman acceptable after these actions.
So how do we get those answers? We need an independent investigation into police tactics and police co-operation with the Trump administration and white supremacist organizations. We need city council to convene hearings on this and to do that we need you to call them. We need public records requests from journalists and subpoenas from city council. We need each and every one of you to call Ted Wheeler TODAY and tell him what you think of his riot squad. They shot people in the head with rubber bullets against all manufacturer instructions. They shot people at close range completely unprovoked. They detained journalists so their abuses wouldn’t be reported. They hurt numerous disabled Portlanders. They detained a mass of innocent people and demanded ID. Call the mayor and let him know how you feel about this. NOW! (503)823–4120.
And lastly, we just need a new mayor. I’m not kidding. This isn’t sustainable. How long does this have to go on before we stop giving Ted a break? What kind of sanctuary city is this? Who do we want to be? And is this it? If so, maybe people of color and other marginalized groups really don’t belong here. Maybe we should hand over our city to Joey Gibson and his goons. Or maybe we should fight? I’m going with the latter. I’m going to fight until I can’t but we all need to fight together. Under Donald Trump we need to be expanding our rights to protest not restricting them. We need a mayor that will help us resist racism and white supremacy not one that enlists white supremacy to beat up his constituents. While I am glad that Ted Wheeler exposed himself before he ran for Governor, we can’t afford for him to be in elected office any longer. It is literally unsafe. More people are going to die. I am not sure if he is evil or incompetent but at this point it makes no difference. Unfortunately, images of police throwing flash bangs and pepper spraying peaceful people while fascists chant “USA” is how Ted Wheeler will be remembered. We need to start preparing a way to get him out of office and we can’t wait 4 years. I’m calling on all organizations in this city who care about human rights to start organizing against this mayor. We need to settle our differences in order to protect people. How many more executions by the police will it take for you to do something? How many peaceful protestors need to get hurt before you act? Please, white Portland. Portlandia. Help us! We still can’t breathe.