Well then…

Let’s get some politics out of the way.

• Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill is resigning at the end of the month. He’s recommending DA-elect Mike Schmidt to finish out the rest of his term. Underhill says that the momentum of societal change is in the now, and so, to him, it makes sense to put the next DA in place five months early, so he can take part in the process that will shape his coming term as the county’s top prosecutor.

I guess there’s nothing requiring Kate Brown to follow Underhill’s suggestion, but it’d seem inane not to do so.

• Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis is also resigning, citing business and family demands cuz o’ Virus. While that may be happening, his resignation also comes amidst complaints of racism, and he has encouraged Travis Stovall, a black man, to run for his spot, so Bemis is probably, at least in part, full of shit.

• Portland City Council is meeting today. As I type this, I think. To vote on the city budget, I think. If votes go down the way they did during the emergency vote last week, it will pass. But there’s been a lot of public sparring between Eudaly and Hardesty that I have been paying absolutely no attention to, so a pass might not be a foregone conclusion.

Ugh. Politicians.

Last night was… a bit of a role reversal, you could say.

Eastside upped the ante, for sure. They’d taken bridges. They’d taken an interstate. This time, they did both, as they occupied the upper deck of the Fremont Bridge for over an hour.

The ability of Rose City Justice to safely coordinate such large actions continues to astound. The north end of that bridge, where I-405 abuts into I-5, is an absolute mess of ramps. Securing all of that to keep traffic off the bridge would have been no easy feat. This is perhaps their biggest action yet. It’s a beautiful bridge, on a gorgeous evening, and the media coverage looked just stunning.

The language of the Eastside is worth examining a bit, as it has evolved in not-insignificant ways. Weeks ago (I can’t believe that’s an accurate statement now), the group was focused on — insisting on — the importance of peaceful protest. Now… Well, here’s an excerpt from last night:

“They say one protest is peaceful and one is not. Fuck that! The essence of protest is a disturbance of the peace! Are we peaceful?” “HELL NO!”

I said at the time that the Eastside was using “peaceful protest” in a way that was synonymous with “nonviolent disruption,” so in that sense, the message hasn’t changed, the language is just more precise now. This is at its heart attempt to combat the good-protester/bad-protester false dichotomy. But even if it is only that the language now more accurately reflects what the message was all along, it’s impossible to deny that this is escalated language.

I wonder again about a word I only first brought up yesterday: momentum (well, inertia, really, but they’re necessarily linked: momentum is inertia at speed). Escalation can’t just stop dead. A movement with mass has interia. That’s what concerns me. An escalation in language seems likely to generate an escalation in behavior, so if the escalation of the language brought the language in line with the behavior, is the behavior now going to escalate out of line with the language? To what end?

It’s obviously too early to tell. “Concerns me” doesn’t mean I think it’s a problem, just that I’ve got a very close eye on it. Eastside escalation is novel, and I suspect it has something to do with the recent merger between Rose City Justice and Portland Civil Rights Collective. If I’ve understood things right, the Eastside marches were organized were RJC. And, in spite of their incredible coordination, they really were kinda failing to grab the greater public’s attention. The last big move they made was crossing I-84, and that feels like a lifetime ago. If PCRC is bringing some desperately needed bombast to RCJ’s capacity for coordination, we could be seeing some pretty exciting actions in the works.

Honestly, in the most immediate, I worry about property destruction. I know this is a point of contention between me and a lot of the community, so I’m not going to hammer on about it. I just… I have a really hard time getting on board with destructive disruption when there are so avenues for creation that are every bit as disruptive. Why not, like, yarnbomb street signs, you know?

Yeah, I know, semi-cis white guy criticizing how BIPOC are protesting. If you really need me to find BIPOC voices urging against destruction, lemme know and I’ll try to find a few.

Westside was no less full of surprises. Small fence still in front of the Justice Center, but no cops behind it. And the fence must not fully encircle the building anymore. KBOO’s Cory Elia captured a scene with two cops “on break” around one side of the building. It looks like intentional outreach, for sure. Both cops leaning casually against the boarded up walls, no fence in front of them, attempting to engage with protesters. Lots of shrugs and trying to let the insults roll off. It was really interesting to watch the effort wear on them. Something happened, I couldn’t quite tell what, involving one of the protesters getting inside a cops’ bubble, and you could see his jaw tighten and his eyes harden as he stopped leaning against the wall. Any sense of casual relaxation was gone. He was not a happy cop of color.

A big group of protesters rounded the corner and he tapped his buddy’s arm with the back of his hand in a, “C’mon, let’s go,” before they both dipped inside. It was a real smart move.

Another real smart move was no LRAD announcements. It seems kinda obvious. I mean, they tell people not to shake the fence and people shake the fence harder. They tell people not to throw things and they’re met with a volley of water bottles. So, like, duh.

All of this feels characteristically different from the cop tactics of the previous nights. And this made me wonder: where is Jami Resch at right now? Is she still with the department? The LRAD especially feels a lot like her hand. Is she in a position right now where Lovell might be tapping her for insight?

Lovell’s biggest theme during the transition was the stated desire to heal the rift between the police and the community. Resch’s de-escalation tactics centered around transparency and robbing protesters of targets. Last night I feel like we saw both.

And you know what? There was never an Unlawful Assembly declared.

Overall the crowd on the west was only around 200, which is rather smaller than it has been. There was a big hole cut in the little fence, but no one seemed to walk through. A few young women stood guard for a minute. Next time I saw it, they’d been replaced by a sign reading “This is bait!” I buy it. It was a big hole. Question is, who placed it?

The flag was taken from the front of… I’m not honestly sure which building. Somebody wanted to burn it, but somebody else stepped in to take it away. The first guy looked pretty upset about it until the other guy put it on as a cape. The crowd laughed and cheered, and the first guy backed off.

Mind you the flag did burn within fifteen minutes. But again, it was quickly taken away and extinguished.

The two points of more major mischief were a U-lock being put on the doors the two cops had retreated into, and a rope tied from a grated roll-up door to a fire hydrant. Between the two of these, people were said to have been locked inside. The PPB twitter called this a “life safety issue,” which, per the court’s ruling, would have given them the perceived justification to disperse the crowd with teargas. So they seem to realize how crucially important it is not to do that.

The crowd abandoned the Justice Center and its half-burnt flag around 11:30 and wandered around downtown. The reporters left around midnight.

The real ugliness of the night happened just after this, when a dark Ford Focus drove through the group. Twice. Maybe three times. Two were injured, to the point of hospitalization. There’s video. You may have seen it. It’s bad.

This does not strike me as the action of an accelerationist. It seems like vehicle rammings would scare people away from coming out, while infiltrators would be interested in drawing bigger crowds for the conflict potential. So I think this was probably Proud Boys, or something similar.

This would mean two things. First, that there are multiple independent threats active in Portland. Second, these threats are oppositely aligned.

The implications of that second one interest me greatly.

Wannabe gonzo from the passenger cabin of an ’85 Toyota Van. We're all swine here. (He/her/they) (@captsodapocket)