Portland's nightly violence is in eye of national storm
The near nightly violence in Portland either got worse or got better this week.
It may be too early to tell which.
The shooting death of a protester who authorities say may be linked to right-wing groups put Portland back in the center of the national controversy, with President Donald Trump and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler bizarrely trading media-borne insults in real time, right-wing groups vowing retribution on the city, and Gov. Kate Brown releasing a unified law enforcement plan to address the violence but to protect protesters' First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly.
Saturday's fatal shooting happened in the wake of a planned protest by Trump supporters, who began at Clackamas Town Center, then rode in a caravan through the highways and streets of Portland — trading pepper spray, paintballs and projectiles with counter-protesters — and ending up downtown. Along the way, they clashed with local protesters.
Police have identified the victim as Aaron J. Danielson, 39. They have not identified who fired the shot.
Tribune reporter Zane Sparling spoke with the victim earlier on Saturday at the suburban mall. He said the man wore a Patriot Prayer hat and was armed with mace and a knife. Patriot Prayer is a violent, right-wing group that has staged several brawls in Portland in recent years.
Immediately after the shooting, social media lit up with threats of "retribution" aimed at Portland and left-wing protesters.
Portland Police said they were making plans to address any such retribution, although Police Chief Chuck Lovell would not cite specifics. On Monday, the bureau said it had no new information on any such retribution.
Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, Lovell was asked if the violence could turn into an open firefight on the streets of Portland. "I hope it doesn't come to that," he said. "We have a finite resource of officers."
New York Times reporter Mike Baker tweeted Sunday night, "Protesters in Portland are back on the streets tonight … . There is worry in the group that someone could seek retribution for last night's fatal shooting."
Wheeler echoed that fear. He said people on the right and left all enjoy free speech rights, but added, "We're asking you to stay away and work with us to de-escalate this situation."
Lovell said the Portland Police Bureau needs more resources, and declined to say if he wants the National Guard deployed. Wheeler said he has discussed calling in the Guard with Gov. Kate Brown.
For three months, Portland has seen mostly peaceful protests by people opposed to systemic racism, gathering under the banner of Black Lives Matter, followed on many nights by smaller groups engaged in arson, looting and vandalism.
Wheeler has been unable to put together a coalition to respect the protesters but to stop the criminal actions. But on Sunday, Gov. Kate Brown stepped into the fray.
She released a master plan that involves city, county state and federal resources. The goal is to stem violence while protecting free speech. Her plan ran into almost immediate opposition by law enforcement agencies elsewhere.
"We all must come together — elected officials, community leaders, all of us — to stop the cycle of violence," Brown said. "But this is only the first step. Real change will come from the hard work to achieve racial justice. And it starts with all of us listening to each other and working together."
Under Brown's unified law enforcement plan:
• The Multnomah County District Attorney's Office would prosecute serious criminal offenses, including arson and physical violence. Newly installed D.A. Mike Schmidt had said he doesn't want to use his office's resources to try people facing non-violent charges.
• The Multnomah County Sheriff's Office would work with partners to hold people booked for violent behavior, and to ensure that there is adequate jail space to hold them.
• Oregon State Police would detail personnel and resources to Portland to free up the Portland Police Bureau's investigative capabilities to arrest and charge those engaging in violent acts. It was not announced how many personnel will be assigned.
State Police troopers would continue their standard practice of wearing body cameras to allow for the documentation of their activities, Brown said Sunday. Portland Police do not employ body cameras.
• Brown is asking the Clackamas and Washington County sheriff's offices and the Gresham Police Department to support Portland Police with personnel and resources to keep the peace and to protect free speech.
• Oregon State Police have offered more than two dozen body cameras and associated evidence management to the Portland Police Bureau, and the bureau will evaluate their use, Brown said. The city of Portland has agreed to indemnify Clackamas and Washington counties and the city of Gresham for law enforcement assistance. In addition, Mayor Wheeler will seek financial resources to reimburse these jurisdictions for their support.
• U.S. Attorney Billy Williams and the Federal Bureau of Investigation will commit additional resources for investigation of criminal activity. Again, the size and nature of those resources were not announced on Sunday.
But Brown's plan to unite agencies ran into opposition by Monday, when Gresham and both Washington and Clackamas counties said "no deal." The Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police and Oregon State Sheriff's Association also opposed her measure.
Many of the agencies said they hadn't heard about the plan before Sunday. Others mentioned the new Multnomah County D.A., Schmidt, who has said his office won't try protestsers charged with minor misdemeanors, but would focus only on those charged with violent crimes.
Meanwhile, police say vandals on Monday night literally poured more fuel on the statewide fire, burglarizing a business on the North Park Blocks and setting a fire in an occupied apartment building.
In a further development, Brown also said Sunday she will convene a community forum, including Wheeler, and will invite Black protest organizers and community leaders to discuss racial justice and police reform in Portland. The group will create a venue for all community voices to come together, listen to each other, and co-create a just and peaceful future, Brown wrote.
Trump vs. Oregon elected officials
During the Republican National Convention, President Trump and others repeatedly pointed to Portland as a violent, dangerous city. Some of Saturday's protesters said they were inspired to come here because of the convention and the president's remarks.
On Sunday, he threatened to return federal troops to Portland. Federal law enforcement stationed here in July significantly increased the levels of violence on the streets. Gov. Brown subsequently brokered a deal to get the federal authorities out of town.
Trump was apparently watching Wheeler's Sunday press conference. The president tweeted that Wheeler "would like to blame me and the Federal Government for going in, but he hasn't seen anything yet. We have only been there with a small group to defend out U.S. Courthouse, because he couldn't do it."
A CNN reporter read the tweet to Wheeler, who responded to the president via the cameras.
"You've tried to divide us more than any other figure in modern history and now you want me to stop the violence that you helped create," Wheeler said into the cameras. "I'd appreciate that either the president support us or he stay the hell out of the way."
Other elected officials in Oregon joined the fray. On Sunday, Multnomah County Commission Chair Deborah Kafoury said Trump supporters were "stoked by a president who has gone out of his way to demonize this city and encourage vigilantism in service to white supremacy and his own fragile ego."
Also on Sunday, Brown said, "For the last several years, and escalating in recent months, President Trump has encouraged division and stoked violence. It happened in Charlottesville. It happened in Kenosha. And now, unfortunately, it is happening in Portland, Oregon."
Reporter Zane Sparling contributed to this article.
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