Let’s examine race and policing in Portland & DC

I and others have mentioned, of course, the vastly different treatment given to BLM protesters when it was thought they might inflict property damage and yesterday’s insurrectionists. There are numerous reports, including from Newsweek, about how law enforcement had plenty of information leading them to predict that the publicly-planned January 6th event would become violent. They even had good reason to fear there would be violence against people, not just property. For a variety of reasons, they did not take seriously the need for event security or even security on Capitol Hill. One reason is particularly interesting: they feared it would be even worse if they acted to prepare defenses against violence. Why? Here’s Newsweek’s take:

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What do you need to know about the Portland protests?

Obviously I have Opinions™ on what needs to be said about the protests in Portland. I think they’re important and I couldn’t have come to that conclusion without thinking that certain specific things about the protests were important.

But honestly, these protests aren’t important at all unless they’re communicating something to people. Now, just photos of tear gas can inform us about the state of authoritarianism in US government, but there’s so much more to say, especially since general authoritarianism doesn’t tell us anything about the original goals of the movement: ending racism and racist violence in policing.

So of course I’ll continue to report, but I want y’all to get the information that is most meaningful to you. I genuinely care about what you want to know.

So, if you were going to the Portland protests, what would you investigate? What would you be trying to learn? What would you be looking to see?

in short, what can I tell you that you aren’t getting anyplace else?

Most requested/upvoted will get the highest priority, but I’m really going to try to get people everything on the list, if it’s in my power to do so.

Some previous suggestions from Wonkette’s comments where I’ve also been posting about the protests:

  • Demographics, esp race.
  • How much of the crowd is college students? How active are they? What about the olds?
  • Any more co-opting by III% or Boogaloo Bungholes?
  • I want to know if you’re OK, if you move been hurt by the feds and/or police
  • if there’s anything we can do to help
  • Part of me just wants to know all the little anecdotes.
  • Another part of me wants to know what kinds of plans people are making to actually change things as we go forward – that includes holding the line on Trump et al invading cities like Portland, but more specifically, the issues around injustice and police brutality and ongoing systems on racism (sure, just a small basket of things, no trouble right?)
  • I would like to know how it feels to participate in the protests, to be there?

You can suggest something totally new, or use these ideas as a take-off point, or just comment to give your +1 to one or more of them without adding your own creations.

99% of Portland Moms “Not angry, just disappointed”

99% of Portland Moms “Not angry, just disappointed”

Portland’s wall of mothers has gotten a large amount of attention and their motivation to protect their own and others’ children has generated high praise. However, most Portland mothers have not attended any of the demonstrations that have occurred nightly in the city since the death of George Floyd. The reasons for this seeming lack of enthusiasm appear to have a common thread.

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A few more pics from Portland

Some lunatic was running around with this on hir back:

Transsexual Perverts 4 Peace

Must have been someone itchin’ for a chance to rumble with the feds is my guess.


There’s a LOT of graffiti. I’m told by multiple people that it’s power washed and/or painted over every single day. I specifically asked if they take weekends off. They replied that the graffiti is erased Every. Single. Day.

Some of the graffiti is artistic. The most artistic, by the way, is also the most long lasting since the people that enjoy doing art enough to become talented at it have saved their better works for boarded up buildings other than the courthouse so as to avoid the daily purge. This graphic is one of those, and may have been up longer than 24 hours because it was on private property two blocks from the courthouse:

An anarchy symbol - the A in a circle - and the peace sign are given legs and arms in this picture. An attractively simple drawing, it shows Anarchy & Peace holding hands, with a heart symbol growing over those linked hands between them. Immediately below this friendly image, however, is the reminder,

Anarchy & Peace are sitting in a Tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.

I found myself particularly affected by this one. The image is attractive and friendly. It was also found in many places downtown. But then there’s the statement, “Blue lives murder.” Of course that’s unquestionably true, and the point of the protests, but it can be jarring immediately below the more upbeat image of anarchic, peaceful love. That image of anthropomorphized anarchy & peace, by the way, was not generally accompanied by the words blue lives murder when painted elsewhere in Portland.

Of all the graffiti I saw, this is the single one that stood out the most. I felt this one. I still feel it when merely looking at the photo.


The federal courthouse itself is a site of more chaotic expressions:

Chaotic graffiti on the west face of the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse building. The fencing piled to the right is barricading a door that police have used to emerge from the building when ready to surprise or assault or clear protestors.

Less than 12 hours worth of graffiti.

You can see that there’s some pretty angry, hateful stuff there (“kill all cops”), some humor (“yum, bacon!”), and some much more hopeful thoughts expressed (“I love you mama, papa, babies, but no one taught me how to love you”).

Pictures from Portland

So my first night protesting in Portland in a while. Brings back memories.

Here are a couple photos, though there should be more coming later when I have a friend’s phone available to me:

An EMT has climbed into a tree in the park across from the federal courthouse, and is reclining on a branch.

An EMT in a Tree.

Turns out, being an EMT at the protests can wear you out talking to people. Sometimes you just have to get away from all the people clamoring for your attention, so….

Next up, a Star Wars reference!

An organizer and medic wears a white cross-on-red with the word “Ewoks” filling the crossbar.

I spoke to this person about their shirt. She said she was part of a group of people that was doing the networking and connecting for the protests. In Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, the ewoks did tons of organizing as evidenced by their log traps and whatnot, and were absolutely necessary for eliminating the shield generator to make the raid on the 2nd Death Star possible, but the humans and the ship pilots got all the credit. She said their aim was to be like the Ewoks: worry about the organizing, not about the credit.

The purpose of the shirt, then? She said it wasn’t about getting notice or credit either. The purpose of the shirt was because it allowed people to recognize them and ask them for whatever they might need. The Ewoks wouldn’t necessarily provide it, of course, but because they’re the networkers, they know exactly where to go and whom to ask to get what you need.

There were things to dislike about the protests, of course. It was chaotic, as protests tend to me, and far from homogenous. As a result there were some people who were, shall we say, not my cup of tea. But there were lots of good things as well, and I’ll provide more on both another time. I must get some sleep.

 

Fascist Policing: Portland Oregon Edition

Yet another tip from Shaun King, whom I’ve come to respect more and more. This from my home town, Portland, Oregon. Protestors there interposed themselves between an ICE detention facility and a bus delivering prisoners. They had appeared to violate a rule. They were warned. They may even have been given an explanation. Nevertheless, they persisted. So cops arrested them.

I’m actually okay with the arrest in this case. The point of civil disobedience is to force the government to act according to its laws in order to bring attention to those laws, and I’m much more comfortable with a government that obeys its own laws than one that does not, even where I strongly disagree with those laws … because at least then I have more reason to be confident that if I and others successfully advocate for a change in the law, that might be followed.

It’s what happened next that is disturbing: five of the protestors had bound themselves together to form a human chain which would be much harder to re/move than any individual person might be. Those protesters were hooded and earmuffed. Then the police applied tourniquets to their arms and explained that they were going to be using loud, dangerous tools to separate them, and the earmuffs would protect their hearing while the tourniquets protected against massive blood loss should any major injury occur to a person while the cops were separating the protesters using these dangerous tools.

No loud tools were used, however, and it’s unclear if any potentially dangerous tools were used or whether applying tourniquets in advance would be a proper protective measure if such tools had been used.

Ultimately, it seems much more likely that this was a scare tactic than anything done for the protesters’ protection as claimed by the police. The tourniquets are particularly disturbing, as harm can be done to extremities by the effects of the tourniquets themselves.

No, Portland. Just No.

From Minneapolis to Salem, from 2021 to 1992: An unsettled, unsettling journey

Now THIS is an unpleasant shock. From the Minneapolis StarTribune:

The FBI arrested three more men Friday in connection with the violent Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, two in Minnesota and one in Iowa.

Brian Christopher Mock of Minneapolis was charged with assaulting, resisting or impeding officers; entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds without authority; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted place; obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder, and acts of physical violence on Capitol grounds.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m more or less from Oregon. Certainly I’m more from Oregon than I could be said to be from anyplace else, even Los Angeles, where I was born. I moved away from LA when I was 10 months old (ask me about my experience driving the U Haul, it was hellish without power steering) and landed in Oregon when I was 4. From then on, I grew up in a relentlessly white section of that relentlessly white state about 20 miles from Portland. Not much farther from Portland is the state capital, Salem. I’ve been there many times, both because I’ve had friends live in the area and because of activism I’ve done. This article brings up something that happened in Salem 38 years and 8 months ago that everyone should learn or remember.

In 1992, the Oregon Citizens’ Alliance, a theocratic group originally known for misogynistic attacks on women’s reproductive rights (most obviously in an anti abortion ballot measure which was their first success in placing new state laws before voters) had become better known for hating queers.

For that year’s election they had drafted a ballot measure and collected sufficient signatures to put it on the ballot so that if passed it would be illegal for the state to spend money in any way and on any person’s salary if doing so would contribute to portraying queerness as anything other than “abnormal, wrong, unnatural and perverse”. Conflict was ramping up like crazy around the state. Many people who hadn’t been out, came out that year. Others who had been out retreated to the closet.

This was a defining year for me as I, too, came out of the closet in 1992, and immediately began engaging in activism to fight the OCA. Anxiety was high for queers, but it was also high for the bigots. While in Colorado Amendment 1 was written to have a similar legal effect, it was written in dry prose, without the phrase “abnormal, wrong, unnatural and perverse”. In Colorado the fight was mostly about whether or not the state should “support” queers. (which I guess just means should allow queers to use state services without discrimination?) Amendment 1 passed. In Oregon the hostile language became a reason for moderates to oppose the OCA and their Measure 9. With so much attention focussed on not the legislative effect but the apparent ill will communicated by the OCA’s language, a huge number of people were feeling reflected hostility. While in the past their bigotry would go unchallenged as simply “normal”, now anti queer hatred was (modestly) condemned.

The turn of events shocked the bigots, what with how other people were questioning the morals of the bigots as much as (sometimes more than!) people were questioning the morals of people who liked boobies or occasionally gave a blowjob to someone they loved. Anxiety and anger among the bigots rose as well.

Over the course of that summer, 39 years ago, some young skinheads (ages 19 to 22) living in Salem were engaging in a long running campaign of harassment against two queer roommates a couple doors away. The roommates were one black lesbian in her twenties with a Jewish surname and one white gay man in his early 40s. Perhaps because it was a single theme that allowed them to condemn both roommates at once, their friends made it clear that insults targeting sexual orientation were at the heart of this campaign of harassment. But racism and antisemitism were present too, as you could expect from a group of racist skinhead asshats.

One day in late September, well into the campaign season, there was a physical confrontation between houseguests of the two queers and the racists, heterosexist jackholes. We’re not sure of the details of the confrontation, but the houseguests felt that they were sticking up for their hosts when they heard the skinheads being racist, as racists will do, and the racists felt that the houseguests had invaded their apartment and attacked them (and, hell, maybe they did).

In any case, after a confrontation over racism in the context of this ongoing campaign of heterosexist harassment, the racist, heterosexist bigots decided that the right way to reclaim their power was to fill bottles with gasoline, stuff the ends with rags, light them on fire, and throw these Molotov cocktails into the apartment of the hosts & houseguests.

Because of the layout of the apartment, the houseguests made it out. The hosts burned to death.

The hosts’ names were Hattie Mae Cohen & Brian Mock. They were clear victims of a campaign of racist, heterosexist terror for months and became martyrs to hatred’s white, Oregonian avatars.

While Measure 9 consistently polled badly, the margins were never huge, and there was a great deal of concern that some people would not want to admit to supporting a measure that had become associated with bigotry, but would happily vote yes in a private voting booth. Every queer I knew was tense right up to the day after the election.

I am acutely aware that the coverage of the murders of Cohen & Mock may very well have tipped the vote decisively against Measure 9. My freedom and my employment may have been affected by their deaths. For that reason, I consider it a duty to remember them, and I have ever since. I’ve never forgotten their names, nor am I ever likely too.

That’s why it was so shocking to see the name Brian Christopher Mock in a news story as a man arrested for acting out bigotry and hatred and paranoia. To be honest, it was a relief that they included the middle name, and made me wonder if someone at the Star Tribune was familiar with the events of September 26, 1992 in Salem, Oregon.

If you were not familiar with these murders and the effect they had on queer freedom in Washington, California, and especially Oregon, you can read more, or listen to a podcast about them, here.

In the meantime, I will take this coincidence as another reminder of the capacity of fascists to befoul everything that they touch, and as more motivation to prevent the spread of fascism’s stain.

May we always remember those who came before. May we always consider those who will come after.