Well, two bits of important news.
First, the tear gas they’ve been firing at us? Well, it turns out that a lot of it is past its expiration date.
What does that mean? We don’t know. It could be a good thing, with the most toxic chemicals breaking down into less toxic or inert chemicals. It could also be a bad thing, with toxic chemicals breaking down into even more harmful reaction products.
There are numerous reports of harmful, longer-lasting effects. That Salon article focuses most on effects on menstruation and pregnancy, but there are other reports. However, these are anecdotal.
The truth is that the manufacturers treat their particular mix of irritating chemicals as a proprietary business secret. If they know was the breakdown products are, we certainly don’t. Even if we knew the original formula, we wouldn’t necessarily know what it breaks down into and how fast.
So… I and BFF and being used for medical experiments on the effects of expired tear gas. Yay for participating in the advancement of medical science!
The next bit of news is better, I think. DHS says that their troops aren’t leaving Portland, but Governor Kate Brown announced that they had agreed to do so. A number of good reporters have been on this story, and from what they’ve gathered that I’ve been able to read, the story is something like this:
The state and DHS have reached an agreement where LEOs not normally stationed in Portland will be withdrawn. The marshal’s service and the FPS (basically security guards for federal buildings) have a 365 day/year presence in Portland which will either not change if they didn’t bring in additional FPS officers or it will revert to pre-protest levels. In any case, we should be at April levels of marshals and FPS officers soon.
The greater confusion is over the DHS tactical troops. It seems that DHS says that they will not be removed from Portland but Oregon says that they will be. The follow up seems to have clarified this: the DHS troops will be pulled back to a hotel away from downtown, but they will remain in PDX eating room service on the taxpayer dime. If the protests become calmer and less violent with the DHS tactical troops away from the courthouse, the troops will eventually leave Portland. The timeline for observing and making that decision is not, so far as I know, yet public.
In the meantime, the state police, called the Oregon State Patrol because we’re weird like that, will provide extra security around the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse.
Although the Portland Police Bureau has used a lot of tear gas in the last few months, the OSP have not been involved. The hope is that protesters will trust OSP more, or at least have fewer well-earned grudges against them.
Since as I just wrote yesterday there are important reasons why white people should be ending the protest outside the courthouse and going home after the rallies and speeches in front of the Justice Center, and since Black organizers have been asking for quite a long time for people to stop the fireworks and fires near the courthouse after the evening rallies are done, the hope is that protesters will be smart enough to take this as a win and go 100% non-violent instead of 99%, and perhaps even end the late night courthouse protests altogether.
Even if those protests don’t end, however, I expect that the OSP has been given pretty firm instructions from Gov. Brown not to be firing off tear gas.
I don’t know if it surprises anyone or not, but I’m actually fine with people who commit trivial crimes like graffiti being given a written summons or even possibly arrested during a protest. There are times when an unjust law requires people of conscience to break it, but laws against graffiti are not unjust laws.
Nor do I think it’s bad for arrests to be made for the same minor crimes that in other circumstances would be ignored or handled through stern warnings. Discretion not to prosecute is important. Think of setting up rules for your children – do you always handle violations in the same way? Of course not. The protests have been a site of serious tension. Although I think the fault for the worst tension and by far the worst violence clearly belongs to the state, if in the course of attempting to set a new tone the state police make misdemeanor arrests at the protests when otherwise they would at least consider a written summons or even a warning, I can see that a reasonable person can make an argument that this is part of an overall plan to reduce tension and violence.
And hey, if it works, I’m for it.
But that requires that the cops approach individuals calmly, announce that they are under arrest, announce the nature of the charge for which they are arrested, and give the person a fair chance to submit to the arrest. Feds have been handling things drastically differently – engaging in group punishment without due process rather than individual arrest with a guaranteed fair process before punishment.
I am truly hoping that the state cops will be following the constitution and protecting the peace rather than punishing the people. And there’s hope for that, since I think Gov. Brown is smart enough to realize this is a time for deescalation.
The one bad thing is that the agreement with the Feds doesn’t begin until tomorrow. I’m interested to see if the Feds’ thugs have decided it’s not worth busting heads on their last night after their boss has already decided the mission is over, or if they’ve decided that this is their last chance to hurt the libs and they take full advantage of their opportunity to commit violence against Portlanders.
I’m no expert in police psych, so I’m just calling it a toss up for now since, like tear gas, we don’t know what will happen to the cops now that they’ve passed their expiration date. But I’ll be down at the rally in just an hour, and in another 3 or 4 we’ll find out which scenario has come to pass.
Be well, everyone. Things are changing. We’ll see how much and how quickly.