Last night, Wednesday the 22nd, was an important night for the Portland protests, yet I left earlier than other nights when I’ve stayed at least 3.5 hours. “What accounts for this, friendly neighborhood Crip Dyke?” you might ask. It comes down to this: I wimped out.
Unfortunately for y’all, I was feeling shaky all day, not sure if that’s leftover physical effects from Tuesday night or leftover psychological effects. Talking with people who were there last night there were several who recognized me and came up to me to ask how I was doing. All of them had seen me near the front with no protection other than a COVID-19-style mask and a couple had noticed that I was the last to emerge from the clouds of tear gas in the direction I came (on some other corner, someone else might have emerged later than me). They were telling me that everyone else as close as I was had better protection, though I know that’s not technically true since my BFF had the same measly protection as me, except for goggles. So maybe it was lingering physical effects, who the fuck knows. The point is that I stayed a bit less than 2.5 hours. I did stay long enough to witness some important stuff and to have some things to say, but not nearly as long as you or I would have liked.
By the time I had been there for 2 hours, my body was literally shaking, and I couldn’t guarantee that I could stay on my crutches fleeing through a crowd, so BFF & I backed off a bit more than we had other nights and left only a few minutes after the first use of tear gas. The fencing stayed up today – it was obviously a new type and much sturdier, so no one had managed to take it down. This is another reason I was farther back, because on Tuesday night when I was in the middle of the absolute worst of it, part of why I was there was that the only place to sit anywhere near the courthouse door is on these little 2′ pylons that are very close to that door. With the fencing in place, and feeling unsteady, I didn’t have a good place to rest between bouts of filming and photographing.
Just because the fence wasn’t taken down early, however, doesn’t mean it was ignored. When the crowd focussed on the courthouse, a group of mostly young, mostly black-clad, mostly well equipped with breathing protection folks took to pulling on and shaking the fencing. A few climbed up on it to use their body weight to swing it back and forth more effectively. A number of fireworks were thrown over the fence into the area of sidewalk immediately before the courthouse door. (I wanted to get video, but honestly they come about one every 5-10 minutes so it’s a lot of holding your hands over your head, and a lot of boring footage, for the small benefit.) Then one person climbed the fence, set off a firework, and climbed back over. It was shortly after that that the first tear gas was set off. The first use tonight was almost a “warning” tear gassing, as it was a single canister set off near the fencing, I think meant to discourage the protestors on the fence without gassing the crowd indiscriminately or drive people off completely.
I want to stress that this was COMPLETELY different from their actions on previous nights. On other nights, there was no gas and no gas and no gas, then the feds come out and spew gas everywhere. And this wasn’t the only difference. Tonight the feds actually gave verbal warnings & orders to disperse. I heard 5 of them, including one after that first “warning” gas grenade. Not long after that, someone set some plywood on fire. This can damage concrete, of course, not much, but some, and on other nights when even small fires were lit that was the cue for the feds to burst out and get violent. It didn’t quite happen that way Wednesday night, but we couldn’t know then how different or similar Wednesday would be.
The effects of that “warning” tear gas were unpleasant, but wouldn’t be debilitating for any healthy person. I was not feeling healthy last night, however, and immediately I began to stream snot from my nose into my mask. My breathing was only barely affected, but I felt even crappier than I had been. Since my body was shaking at this point, and I was uncertain of my ability to stay over my crutches and effectively flee an area if I added not being able to breathe to everything i was already experiencing, I backed off a full block away then rested for a bit. During the time I was backing off, the feds gave more loud warnings, but did not add more tear gas. (There is good reason to think that this restraint was a result of the presence of Mayor Ted Wheeler.) Not long after, we left the area because we couldn’t see or hear what was happening from that distance and my body wasn’t getting any better. Apparently minutes after we walked away, by media reports, there was another round a tear gas that was more serious, but still not as bad as other nights – certainly not nearly as bad as last night. We were close enough to hear this attack, but had already turned the corner and couldn’t see it.
As fun as last night was physically, this shit is also completely triggering my anxiety, and that was when I decided to pick up some good scotch as medicinal alcohol. Honestly I don’t buy a lot of booze b/c i was stupid enough to learn to like the good stuff (yes, that means the expensive stuff) years ago, but it does help me relax and feel a bit less anxious, so I bought a bottle of scotch and damn the money.
I’ve already made the decision to skip tonight (Thursday) and return on Friday. I think this body needs a full day off. So, I’ll have a shot before I head out on Friday, and a couple when I get back early Saturday morning. I’ve never had a problem with addiction, other than sugar if you want to count that, so as bad as it might sound in the abstract to medicate with Laphroaig, I’m fucking doing it and none o’y’all can stop me.
Gonna drink some tea; another post up in a bit. I figure y’all wanna hear about Ted Wheeler’s appearance, right? Yeah, I’ve got your kind sorted, don’t I?