Last week, the unrest that has plagued downtown Portland for the better part of a year arrived in Tigard — and it wasn't pretty.
Responding to the fatal shooting of a man by a Tigard police officer the night before, dozens of demonstrators, many of them wearing dark clothing, descended on downtown Tigard on Thursday, Jan. 7.
The right to peaceably assemble is guaranteed by the First Amendment — the very same that protects your right to free speech and this newspaper's right to freedom of the press. But what some bad actors within this demonstration did is guaranteed nowhere.
We are thankful no one was hurt, perhaps owing to the restraint that Tigard police showed. Police officers waited, staying mostly out of sight unless and until they needed to respond, allowing the march to proceed in peace — right up until some demonstrators began smashing windows at Tigard City Hall. Glass at several downtown businesses was broken as well, and many buildings were tagged with graffiti. Several demonstrators broke into the Tigard police station, an annex of City Hall, to cause more vandalism inside the building.
Let's step back for a moment and be clear we're not invoking hyperbole. Spray paint can be cleaned up. Broken windows can be replaced. Property damage can be repaired.
This situation cannot and should not be compared to the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, in which five people died and a sixth died by suicide days later, and the lives of members of Congress, the vice president and others were directly threatened. It shouldn't even be compared to last month's demonstration at the Oregon State Capitol, where several people were arrested for assaulting police officers and journalists on the scene.
We should not and will not draw a false equivalency between the actions of Tigard police on Jan. 6 and the actions of this destructive mob on Jan. 7. We don't have all of the details yet, and the incident is being investigated by an appropriate agency, but we do know that police shot and killed someone on Jan. 6 — a terrible tragedy, whether or not it was justified, whether or not a different course of action would have meant Jacob Ryan Macduff were still alive today. And we know that for all of the damage they did, protesters did not physically hurt anyone in downtown Tigard the following night.
All of that said: This was a disgrace.
Many of the demonstrators who came to Tigard were from outside the community, if social media activity before and during the event is any indication. By attacking City Hall, they showed their disrespect for the people of Tigard, not just the city of Tigard.
City Hall is a place meant to serve Tigard's residents and business community. Hardworking, dedicated men and women work on behalf of the people of Tigard in those offices — not just police, but civilians as well. Tigard's tax dollars go toward paying their salaries, as well as toward the upkeep of city buildings like those that were vandalized last Thursday.
Worse, though, was the flagrant disrespect shown to innocent small business owners and employees by some demonstrators who couldn't confine their rage to the city government and police department alone.
There is no legitimate reason to smash up storefronts along Main Street, no matter how angry you are at the cops, no matter how dispossessed or disillusioned you feel about the state of the world. Insurance offices, boutiques and restaurants are not valid targets.
None of this damage is fatal. But it gives the image of Tigard a black eye, and it doesn't serve a purpose or cause. It's a temper tantrum by people who should be old enough to act like adults, charitably; cynically, it's a rabble of outsiders getting their jollies by ruining a few business owners' day in a town they don't live in or care about.
The actions of law enforcement deserve scrutiny. Any time a police officer takes a civilian's life, there must be a complete and full accounting of what happened, as well as appropriate consequences. The Tigard City Council may face popular pressure, in this very politically liberal suburb, to take up reforms or increase civilian oversight of the police department. Police Chief Kathy McAlpine should take this moment to review her department's practices and procedures, working to ensure these tragedies are as rare as possible and are avoided whenever they can be, regardless of exactly what transpired in the moments leading up to Macduff's death.
But all of this can be accomplished without a riot. If it's true, as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, that a riot is the language of the unheard, then those who would riot should give their leaders the opportunity to hear them.
Prior to Macduff's death, it had been years since a Tigard police officer fired his or her weapon in the line of duty. Tigard has been admirably transparent about its policing procedures, maintaining a long and detailed FAQ page on its website. Chief McAlpine and Mayor Jason Snider have held listening sessions with the community. There are many, many places where people can claim, with justification, that their leaders refuse to hear them. Tigard is not one of them.
We grieve the death of a Tigard man who was, by all accounts, a troubled individual who needed help. We wish he were still alive and with us today, getting the help he needed. And our reporters will continue asking questions of the Tigard Police Department and working to ensure we get the full story about what happened.
But we hope others who want answers and demand justice will not hijack this tragedy by causing more mayhem in this quiet town. Tigard cannot become a playground for weekend warriors venting their restless energy by causing property damage and frightening the locals. Tigard should not be known for boarded-up shop windows and vandalism.
The reflexive response to a perceived injustice should be to demand accountability, not pass along your misery and outrage to someone who doesn't deserve it. We will stand with you and demand accountability. But we cannot justify the damage and lawlessness in downtown Tigard last Thursday night, and we cannot endorse the mindset — seen all too often in our troubled era — that the only way to change things is to break things. We all deserve better than that.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.