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After Nearly a Year of Unrest, Portland Leaders Pursue a Crackdown

Author: Mike Baker
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News

After Nearly a Year of Unrest, Portland Leaders Pursue a Crackdown

“There would not be protests if police didn’t continue to murder people,” Ms. Raiford said. “I wish we cared about life as much as we care about property.”

Protests erupted in thousands of communities around the country after Mr. Floyd’s death, but most gradually petered out. Portland, by contrast, had nightly protests for months, with a broad swath of the community demanding changes to confront racism and inequality in the criminal justice system. The Police Bureau exacerbated tensions, using force and tear gas in ways that have drawn the ire of judges and the Justice Department.

But the crowd sizes have waned, and figures such as Terry Porter, the former Portland Trail Blazers player, have called for an end to destructive demonstrations. Mr. Wheeler seemed to use last week’s conviction of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who murdered Mr. Floyd, as an opportunity to bring the most raucous of the protests to a close.

As people around the country went into the streets to cheer the conviction, some businesses in Portland boarded up their windows once again. That night, a small group of activists wearing black approached a group of journalists, threatening to smash the cameras of those who remained on scene. The group later shattered windows at two Starbucks stores. One man was arrested after throwing a punch at a police officer.

The crowds the city has seen are often made up of amorphous groups of people who come for different reasons. Chris Davis, the deputy police chief, estimated there were 150 to 200 people among the regular protesters who were prone to engage in property destruction, although the demonstrations often feature smaller numbers.

Those protesters often seen in identity-concealing black apparel and engaging in vandalism are a mix of anarchists and police abolitionists, said David Myers, an activist who has joined many of the city’s protests. He said that while he was OK with those who engaged in property damage to apply pressure on city officials unwilling to impose change, he bemoaned that some of those demonstrators seemed to be sidelining the original Black Lives Matter message and harming the cause. In some cases, he said, businesses owned by Black people or which support the Black community have been attacked.

“I think everybody in that mix wants to say they are B.L.M., but their actions show otherwise,” Mr. Myers said.

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