Portland protests: $30 million bill for police, businesses
Demonstrations in downtown Portland entered their fourth consecutive week, and businesses and police leaders are finally taking a peek at the bill — worth an estimated $30 million.
Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell said the bureau had incurred expenses of at least $6.2 million, though that doesn't account for the overtime of employees who were reassigned, as well as emergency repairs for busted jailhouse windows and squad cars' cracked windshields.
"This is a staggering sum, especially when we know many of us would rather those funds be used for the reinvestment so many truly desire," Lovell said in a release on Tuesday, June 23.
According to the Portland Business Alliance, local merchants reported an economic loss of $23.2 million — with the majority of the tab coming from the loss of revenue at boarded-up shops in a ghostly quiet downtown.
Business owners reported $4.8 million in costs due to damages from looting, fires and graffiti. The remainder, $18.4 million, was attributed to lost revenue due to protest-related closures, according to a PBA survey. Gov. Kate Brown lifted all closure rules for retail businesses on May 15; intense rioting and the first large-scale protest broke out weeks later on May 29.
"Our reach was limited, and it should be assumed that the total loss is higher for both physical damage and lost revenue," said Amy Lewin, a spokeswoman for the alliance. "However, we clearly recognize that systemic racism is the root cause of the community outrage resulting in ongoing demonstrations. We stand with our community members' expression of frustration."
The survey's 93 respondents offered up individual damage estimates ranging from just $35 to $2.5 million. A copy of the survey sent to city officials does not ID the business owners beyond their ZIP code.
"Dirty windows, nothing worse," one business owner responded.
A retail landlord reported a $95,000 bill for 26 smashed storefront windows, while another tallied up $1 million in losses, including $300,000 of stolen merchandise. The most common complaint was graffiti, but others described smashed windows and doors, looting, fires, broken cameras and carpets ruined by glass shards.
"We've been fighting for a cleaner and safer downtown for the last five years and we've been in a losing battle. Consumers are often more comfortable outside of the downtown corridor," said another survey respondent.
The business alliance says 11% of the businesses will have their damages covered by insurance, while 48% will not, with some citing a high deductible or choosing not to alert their insurance. Other survey respondents were unsure of the answer or will receive partial reimbursement.
Police response continues
As for the Portland Police Bureau, Chief Lovell said officers had tried to deescalate the nightly demonstrations by significantly scaling back the fence surrounding the Justice Center, withdrawing guards inside the building and sending out small groups of police to speak with protesters.
"Rather than dispersing or following lawful orders, officers have been met with violence, including improvised explosives, rocks, glass bottles, ball bearings and marbles launched from slingshots, among other projectiles," Lovell said.
He said injuries to police included concussions, a broken foot, lacerations, bruises and torn ligaments.
The trial by fire downtown has coincided with the uptick in crime experienced in cities every summer; there have been six reported homicides within city limits in the 10 days before May 23, and the police chief said domestic violence calls, robberies, burglaries and non-fatal shootings also were on the rise.
Lovell implied that protesters were hindering efforts to reform the bureau, which had its budget slashed by $27 million during a controversial City Hall vote on June 17.
"To move forward, we must shift our focus and resources into productive collaboration and actions alongside the community," according to the chief's statement. "We cannot do this effectively if the nightly criminal acts and violence continue to pose instability and threat to our community and critical infrastructure."
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