Dickens wrote: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.”
What do we make of this summer? It is now commonplace to look at our family and be overjoyed by their love and presence. We have been made calm and peaceful by nature, by movement, by thought. We’ve slowed down.
We’re also in a worsening pandemic, we don’t know whether children can return to school and the economy is now shocked into an almost unrecognizable reality.
We are also finally taking on the national shame of racism, particularly in policing after an incident on May 25, which lasted eight minutes and forty-six seconds. With the death of George Floyd, we Americans had finally had enough. Protests in Portland, notorious for police racism and brutality, began in late May and continue to this day.
On June 16 the Lake Oswego council agreed to dive into the status of our policing as well.
By late June, the protests, if not the underlying desire for equity and justice, had diminished in numbers.
On July 2nd Trump ordered federal agents to Portland where they continue to this day. These agents have been insufficiently trained and through overreaction and shows of force, have escalated and inflamed the area around two federal buildings into nightly chaos and violence.
Trump’s political motivation for this order is not in question. He stated himself that he was sending federal police into Portland and other cities “all run by liberal Democrats” or “They were going to lose Portland.”
Chad Wolf for Homeland Security disputes Trump. Supposedly Portland, long a majority white city with a history of white supremacy, is also the home of “violent anarchists” as opposed to garden variety criminals.
Whatever the case, as the New York Times stated: “What began as a movement for racial justice became a broader campaign to dislodge the federal forces from the city.”
Without argument, the vast majority of the protests have been peaceful. That has been documented over and over in photos and videos by both professional journalists and citizens who then posted those pictures on social media.
I want to be very plain about this. We Americans have a constitutional right to assemble and I am entirely supportive of every single person who has used their voices and their presence to protest. I condemn any attempt to infringe on this right.
There have also been photos that evidence a melee, teargas, arson, violence, and substantial damage to the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse. This seems to arise at about 11 PM each night and the full extent of what switch is flicked and what happens afterward is uncertain.
Wryly I want to point out that but for a ruling by Judge Simon, legal observers from the National Lawyers Guild and journalists would have been forced to leave when the members of the "special units of officers" decided it was time to call an unlawful assembly. Nobody watching? No evidence. So no evidence to support an inference that what we know happened in the past could occur in the future. Pretty nifty, right?
As I understand it, about three thousand people were in downtown Portland last night and were tear-gassed twice. Whether you were able to attend or not, and however you are being active and responsive, I wholeheartedly believe that all the "federal agents" in the world cannot and will not prevail over the committed citizens of a free country. Numerous petitions from leaders and citizens from all over the state and the narratives of countless protesters speak to the fact that few see this as just a Portland matter. Few do not fear the rise of fascism.
There is not, however, unlimited time to continue the impasse as we are. We are 100 days from a national election.
Trump seems to think that we, especially white suburban married, and affluent women are removed from the racial conflict and want to stay that way. Clackamas County IS the most expensive county in Oregon to live in.
Enter the not-so-subtle racial appeal: In this moment of trauma, he moves to repeal a fair housing rule that he claims would lead to the “destruction” of the country’s suburbs. That melee? It’s going to come to your peaceful, mostly white neighborhoods. Liberals will “eliminate single-family zoning, bringing who knows into your suburbs, so your communities will be unsafe and your housing values will go down,” he said.
Oregon and therefore Lake Oswego already through HB2001 ended single-family zoning. They can’t use the idea of increasing the supply of housing to bully or intimidate us. Tensions over density and parking will be worked out. The city and the citizens of Lake Oswego have shown a real desire to get it right, to put an end to racism by bringing all people up to parity. They have shown a desire for diversity, equity, and inclusion - a desire for generosity of spirit.
But it is also a time for bitter learning, a time for taking in at a core level feminist solidarity. Moms of all ages, sizes, and colors gathered in downtown Portland mistakenly believing that if they had not done anything wrong, they would have nothing to fear. Nonetheless, they were fired on by “tactical teams” with tear gas and projectiles, in another show of police abuse.
Meanwhile, however, the days are passing. Every night there are completely peaceful protests, but every night at about 11 PM a fire starts, someone gets stabbed, someone gets groped.
Black Lives Matter.
That said Black Lives Matter does not need provocateurs damaging federal property because, you know, that’s what we do at 11 PM after the peaceful protests end. Black Lives Matter needs to stay at the forefront.
I believe we must support effective resistance to what could well become an occupation by our federal government throughout our country, not surprisingly right before an immensely consequential election.
Portland’s mayor and the city council must demonstrate real leadership by, for example, blocking the streets around the federal buildings - a no bait zone, so to speak - thereby eliminating the basis for the troops to be there at all. They need to examine and take control of their relationship to the police department (and its union) which may be collaborating with the federal troops. These officials were not elected to be in “bed with the feds.”
But also the provocateurs who are baiting the federal troops must be immediately stopped.
Sadly, though, I see vandalism, flash banging, setting off fireworks, rocking fences, throwing plastic bottles or other projectiles at the federal courthouse to be like throwing a piece of raw meat at a sloppily caged hungry lion. It’s a deliberate taunt. The lion is going to charge. It is not restrained. Nothing but disaster can come from this foolishness. Getting national and international attention to this spectacle is not going to deter or shame anyone in national power, let alone the likes of Trump, Barr, Wolf or even McConnell. It’s like an accelerant to them.
There is no constitutional right to vandalize or destroy damage. It may seem cheer-worthy when, as a friend of mine said, “the town fights back, and when the Ewoks blow up the AT-ST, in Star Wars.” It may even be energizing as we see people staying on the streets in response to what may well be the fascist oppression of federal forces.
But the provocateurs do not have the law on their side. I am not arguing that presence and protest aren’t important. They are. Nor is despair either warranted or an excuse.
This is the time to allow our democratic institutions to undergird us and our safety.
This is the time for all of us to use our heads, as well as our peaceful presence, to act with power, fortitude, and courage to get the federal troops out now.
Posted on 26 Jul 2020, 21:13 - Category: My thoughts