PDX Protest — Day 20
The city budget passed, cutting $15 million (3%) from the PPB budget, while Portlanders were overwhelmingly asking for $50 million. Still lots of bad blood between Hardesty and Eudaly. Wheeler managed to talk mostly about himself. You can read it all elsewhere.
Let’s be honest, what you really want to hear about is the Patrick Kimmons Autonomous Zone (say his name), a heavily barricaded L of roadway centered around Ted Wheeler’s condo building at NW 10th and Glisan.
It started innocently enough, with a handful of folks from the PNW Youth Liberation Front chilling in the street while the Rev Hall march gathered at Waterfront Park and a small group formed outside Justice Center. By 10pm, “#OccupyWheeler” had grown to a hundred or so. There were tents. There was yoga. “An extremely chill Antifa youth campout.” (Tuck Woodstock)
It ended just after dawn with about 50 people, when the cops finally rolled up to the towering barricades for dispersal. They claim not to have used force or CS gas. I’m hoping for more detail than that from the #pdxprotest hashtag, because the cops very conveniently showed up right after the last journalistic holdout left. (Hats off to the stalwartly insane Donovan Harley.)
The Rev Hall group marched to Waterfront for their program, and a large portion stayed downtown to join what was now known as the “Glisan Autonomous Zone,” as demarcated by sidewalk chalk and a line of rocks. This raised the total to around 400 people and dumped a ton of energy into the area. The chant on everyone’s lips was predictable.
“FUCK TED WHEELER!”
$15 million was just not enough, it seems.
I’m not sure where the $50 million figure that Portlanders demanded came from. My best guess is simply that 10% feels like a fraction where you could go “Yeah, mmhmm, that’s a sizable chunk” without running any numbers. 3% feels pretty paltry. Wheeler says that, rest assured, this number is “not incremental.” I don’t have enough experience to know if that’s true, only enough experience to not take his word for it.
He probably anticipated some sort of action. A condo neighbor said he wasn’t even home, rather zooming in to the city council meeting from his parents’ house.
By 11, cars had pulled in to barricade the adjoining streets and people were getting to work building more serious barricades that only continued to grow most of of the night. Rocks, cones, pylons, newspaper stands, dumpsters, concrete planters, a pickup truck’s worth of pallets, fencing, scaffolding, and god knows what else. They were honestly pretty impressive. And completely ADA accessible.
The lack of police presence beyond scouts in unmarked cruisers is a little hard to decipher. A lot of possibilities.
- The Pearl is bougie AF and not all boarded up like downtown, so they might have feared escalating things into property destruction.
- Wheeler just voted to strip $15 million from their budget, so they mighta been a bit surly over it.
- They were strategizing. One hell of a situation had developed, and it was a PR disaster just itching to happen.
- My own money says that they were monitoring Twitter, waiting for the press to leave.
Nevertheless, rumors of inbound cops circulated for hours. I can’t tell if this was something somebody started to make people tense or to stymie attrition.
And it did grow tense at times. The overwhelming intent was nonviolent disruption, but it wasn’t unanimous. There was one guy with a machete, baseball bat, and an earpiece that got into a screaming match with a protester and was later caught trying to hack large branches off of a tree. (I’m reminded of the large branch that fell off a tree at Chapman Park many days ago.) One reporter noted his black clothing seemed particularly crisp. A lot of the crowd were calling him an undercover cop because of the earpiece, but I think a cop would be smarter than to have a giveaway so obviously showing. Being my Nazi-hunting self, I think it more likely that he was an accelerationist infiltrator trying to incite tension through violence and suspicion. Are skinheads likely to already own black clothing? Doesn’t really seem like their style…
Anyway, it was made very clear after a taser had also entered the arsenal that he was not welcome and needed to leave. “We are not fighting. This is not what we’re here for.” That was the last I heard about the guy, so I guess it worked.
In another flare-up moment, a black guy from Nevada was talking through a megaphone about voting and remaining nonviolent.
“Fuck that shit!” a white voice cried out. Others tell him not to step on black voices.
The black guy confronted the other directly, off-megaphone, but when the other tries to interrupt, he snaps, “Keep! Listening! That’s your job!”
That whole incident has an odd odor to it, but I’m going to let this one go.
I don’t know what became of it, because another person picked up the megaphone. Skin was not mentioned, so I have to assume it was of color. He also spoke of nonviolence, but alongside nonpeace, so it landed better. “We are not violent! We are not peaceful! And we ain’t here to march to a fuckin’ park!” He turned to the condos and raised the megaphone to the sky. “WAKE THE FUCK UP!!!”
That line about the park caught me off guard, being a direct attack on Rose City Justice. I’d heard that there was bad blood between PDXYLF and RCJ, but the direct aggression here surprised me.
I think it speaks to a fundamental difference between the two organizations. RCJ (now RCJ:CRC) is led by activists of color with years of experience and knowledge of the history of civil rights, what’s worked and what hasn’t, the ins and outs of the structures they oppose, and how to work from within their confines to get things done. And I think I’ve said it before, but teenagers… just aren’t known for nuanced, long-term thinking. It sounds ageist, I know, but truly, it’s just brain science. Their prefrontal cortex — the seat of long-term planning — simply isn’t fully developed yet.
This good-protester/bad-protester thing… It’s not just a media contrivance looking to shape the narratives of viewers at home. It comes from the protesters themselves. I’ve heard it from both sides now. RCJ people think PNWYLF are too brash and inexperienced, PNWYLF people think RCJ is too complacent and incremental.
If there’s one bridge that really needs built, it’s this one. The kids have got so much fire! So much passion! And we need that! We do! That youth alone could give so much endurance to this movement, and endurance is exactly what other racial justice movements in my lifetime have lacked. If that passion can be harnessed — not exploited, but deployed — in ways that are unified and strategic, this could easily be the most effective civil rights protest in history.
I don’t know why this hasn’t come to me before, but I think the problem here is rooted in the same thing that leads to conflict between the left and the right, between men and women, between white people and people of color, between any two groups that have a hard time getting along: a fundamental difference in lived experience.
Of course I can’t understand where these teenagers are coming from. I’ve never been Generation Z. And as with every single one the dichotomies above, the surest way to be heard is, conveniently, the surest path to understanding.