Portland 'Back the Blue' Rally Erupts in Violence. Police Stand and Watch Because Fights Involved 'Willing Participants'

Illustration for article titled Portland Back the Blue Rally Erupts in Violence. Police Stand and Watch Because Fights Involved Willing Participants
Screenshot: The Washington Post

Civil unrest continued in Portland on Saturday as a “Back the Blue” rally turned into a violent clash between white nationalists and anti-racism protesters—all while police officers stood back and watched the show.

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From the Washington Post:

On Saturday afternoon, a large crowd of more than 100 far-right activists, including Proud Boys and armed militia members, descended on Portland, Ore., staging a “Back the Blue” rally in front of the Justice Center that houses the downtown police precinct. Hundreds of antifa and Black Lives Matter protesters gathered to oppose the far-right crowd.

People in the far-right crowd came armed with paintball guns, metal rods, aluminum bats, fireworks, pepper spray, rifles and handguns. Some people in the opposing left-leaning crowd brought rocks, fireworks and bottles filled with chemical solutions. Both crowds sported shields and helmets.

The two groups sparred for more than two hours, as people exchanged blows, fired paintballs at each other and blasted chemicals indiscriminately into the crowd. People lobbed fireworks back and forth. At least one person was hit in the abdomen with a device that flashed and exploded, causing bleeding.

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While the two groups reenacted the opening scene from Gangs of New York, police officers stood on the sidelines eating popcorn because they know that, due to the pandemic, this might be the last 3D movie they get to watch in a very long time—either that or they just didn’t feel like working that day.

“Each skirmish appeared to involve willing participants and the events were not enduring in time, so officers were not deployed to intervene,” the Portland Police Bureau said in a statement. (So violence in Portland is OK by police now as long as everyone involved consented to beating the shit out of each other...got it.)

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According to the Post, police officers who were at the scene responded to the unfolding violence by repeatedly announcing over a loudspeaker that citizens should “self-monitor for criminal activity,” and they continued issuing that order even as crowd members started beating each other with sticks and brandishing firearms.

More from the Post:

Police said they did not stop the violence, although the event met the criteria to be declared a riot, because too few officers were available to respond and they deemed it too dangerous to intervene. Officers were tired from responding to a much smaller and less volatile protest that was declared a riot the night before, the bureau said in a statement, and incident commanders also had concerns that officers would be targeted by the crowd.

“PPB members have been the focus of over 80 days of violent actions directed at the police, which is a major consideration for determining if police resources are necessary to interject between two groups with individuals who appear to be willingly engaging in physical confrontations for short durations,” the bureau said in a statement. “While the activity in the group met the definition of a riot, PPB did not declare one because there were not adequate police resources available to address such a declaration.”

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So police officers said, “nah” to doing their jobs either because they were too tired from stopping a small, not-really-all-that-violent protest from the night before because they were afraid of being targeted for violence...at a “Back the Blue” rally; or because it was simply too dangerous for police intervention.

What happened to all that “cops are heroes and should be respected because they put their lives on the line every day” energy? Portland police officers certainly don’t have the same hands-off attitude towards Black Lives Matter protests, which they essentially declare all-out war on the second the property damage begins.

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It’s worth mentioning that exactly one week before Saturday’s violent clash, another far-right extremist rally in Portland ended with gunshots.

Anyway, after roughly two hours of the worst West Side Story reboot ever, the “Back the Blue” rally goers “retreated to their cars” and the counter-protesters “followed them as they moved through downtown to a parking garage a few blocks away,” after which the two groups resumed throwing rocks at each other and “exchanged more pepper spray,” the Post reports.

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Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons

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DISCUSSION

Get used to this. The cops have made it very clear that if they can’t do their jobs poorly they don’t want to do them at all. Also, I’m sure a lot of those Proud Boys were cop-adjacent assholes.