The nightly crisis in downtown Portland could have been averted any number of ways. All it would have taken was leadership and common sense.
We did not get that from Mayor Ted Wheeler. We did not get that from Police Chief Jami Resch before she stepped down, nor from current Chief Chuck Lovell. We did not get that from Portland Police Union President Daryl Turner. We did not get that from the police command staff. We did not get that from hardly anyone who mattered.
There needs to be a meeting. Today. Wheeler, Lovell and Turner. They need to get together and come up with a common sense plan to get us out of this mess. They should have done it 50-plus days ago. They need to do it now.
What would a détente look like?
First, let's get the nonsense out of the way.
The presence of federal authorities has made things much, much worse and they need to get out, immediately. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has taken the right, legal steps to get them out of town. Gov. Kate Brown, legislators, Wheeler, other leaders have demanded they leave.
To the officers from the U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group, Customs and Border Protection's Border Patrol Tactical Unit and the Federal Protective Service: Your job here has not been to bring peace to Portland. You are here as part of a presidential campaign.
The photos that Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf tweeted, showing him talking to the "heroic" armed forces the morning after they ran rampant in Portland streets should be disturbing to everyone. It's the photo we've seen of secretaries of defense and presidents, bucking up the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, showing their support for soldiers in the Global War on Terrorism.
But those weren't soldiers, they were "peace officers." It wasn't Baghdad's Green Zone, it was the City of Roses. They didn't quell terrorists, they terrorized Americans.
To the feds: Get out.
To the political machinations of City Hall — City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty this weekend issued an ultimatum to Wheeler: Get the police under control or hand them over to me. It is our opinion that Hardesty does not want to be the police commissioner, and has calculated that Wheeler cannot hand them over without losing face. Hardesty, like Cassius, is looking toward her next political job: Mayor.
Knock it off. We don't need you to lead instead of Wheeler; we need both of you to lead in lockstep.
We are not calling on any of you to step down, we are calling on you to step up.
There are four members of the Portland City Council: They need to come up with a plan, together, stand behind that plan, together, and put an end to this.
What would an end game look like?
It would look like the response Portland should have had — Portland deserved — weeks ago.
If the protesters show up tonight, the mayor, police chief and union president should show up, too. Stand there, for hours, and listen. Third Avenue is mostly closed to cars right now; build a little stage, light it well, invite every videographer and phone-camera jockey a front row seat, and let the protestors yell at you. Let them swear. Let them chant.
The police who respond tonight should be the bicycle cops with their biking shorts and yellow-and-black uniforms. Former Mayor Charlie Hales messed up some things on his watch but he got this right: He ordered riot cops in the military-style, combat uniforms to stay well clear of the Don't Shoot PDX protests, and he put the bike cops — he called them "bumblebees" — on crowd control.
Make no mistake: Some of the protesters have no interest in Black Lives Matter; no interest in better policing policies; no interest in a peaceful détente. They're having fun. Look ma, I'm on YouTube!
But many, many other protesters believe that Black lives do matter. That the city and state have implemented better policing policies this summer but that still more reform is needed. And that this city, this state, is capable of getting there. Together.
Wheeler, Lovell and Turner: You need to talk to that group. You need to listen a lot. To shut up a lot. To let that crowd speak its truth. Then, and only then, will you be able to take the reins of this fight back from the motley few, the pernicious advocates of mischief, who see Portland's nightly riots as a heck of a good time.
At tonight's protest, set up microphones and a free speech platform.
At tonight's protest, hand out water bottles. Offer to stream it live on the city's website.
At tonight's protest, sit down and listen.
You righteous protesters, you true supporters of Black Lives Matter: If the leaders listen, take the opportunity to speak. Let them know what you believe. Then help them to improve our city.
Daryl Turner: This is on you. You're a long-standing leader of the Portland Police rank-and-file. You can lead them to something other than a better cost-of-living-allowance. You have avoided any opportunity to say, "The way we've done things hasn't worked. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting better results. Come on, you men and women of the union: Let's present the city with a better way."
Chief Lovell: This is on you. You came up through the ranks. You're respected. You've got smart, talented cops under your command. You've got officers who love Portland. You need to huddle them in your conference room and give them the same speech Turner should be giving his people: Present the city with a better way.
Wheeler, Hardesty, Commissioners Chloe Eudaly and Amanda Fritz: This is on you. Come together, as a governing body and lead, together, to make sure the Oregonians who need to be heard are being heard. Be out there, tonight. And the next night, and the next. Ask members of the Multnomah County Commission to take shifts. Ask Metro councilors and Portland-area legislators to take shifts. Ask Gov. Brown, Attorney General Rosenblum, Secretary of State Bev Clarno, Treasurer Tobias Read and Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle to take a shift. Ask U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, and U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici to take a shift.
We'll bet you most of the people above will raise their hands, if asked, and will stand with you. To listen.
Offer the protesters a way out. Offer them a route that lets them be heard, and to make a difference. Show them that you're receiving the message — yes, the shouters, the obscenities, the graffiti writers.
This is what should have happened about 50 nights ago. It didn't, and no matter how hard any of us work, we cannot make a better past.
But we can make a better tonight.
We have to.
Mayor Ted Wheeler.
Chief of Police Chuck Lovell.
Union President Daryl Turner.
It starts with you three.
City commissioners, other elected officials: If these three get the ball rolling, it'll only work with you in lockstep.
Get it done.
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.