A look at two incidents in the past month that highlight Oregon police departments' glaring tendency to brutally attack and arrest protesters of racial inequality while ignoring blatant violence from the Alt Right including pointing guns at people, macing people, and beating people. Here are some first hand accounts, photos, and videos of the protests of July 29th in Springfield, Oregon and August 22nd in Portland, Oregon.
Springfield, July 29th
On Wednesday, July 29th, in Springfield, Oregon, Black Unity held a march in Thurston. The peaceful march was met with police barricades that guided the direction of the march. Springfield Police Department, coordinating with alt right counter protesters, purposefully pushed the march into an angry crowd of said counter protesters. Only one arrest of violent counter protesters was made, a woman who attacked a Black Unity protester so badly she had to go to the hospital. Here is an account from one of the medics who was marching with Black Unity on this brutal night:
When we arrived at Jesse Maine memorial park, the first thing I noticed was the amount of people unaffiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement who had come out of their houses to watch the protest assemble. That wasn't out of the ordinary, these protests create a bit of spectacle. Very quickly, some verbal disputes broke out between protesters and counter protesters, but all were settled nonviolently with both parties walking away.
As we started to march, a teammate and I followed in a car in order to provide security or an evac vehicle if needed.
Things were tense, with many counter protesters following behind shouting nonsense about racism not existing. After only a half hour of marching, our route was blocked by police in riot gear and a construction barricade. Protesters lined up across from the police while Black Unity leadership tried to negotiate. Apparently negotiations broke down because the police suddenly attacked with pepper spray and batons.
I heard several anguished cries for a medic so I grabbed my bag, jumped out of the car, and asked my teammate to wait a few blocks away in order to provide emergency transport. A member of the leadership team had apparently been grabbed by the police, another member of the leadership team tried to shield him from the batons. The police did not hesitate to baton and punch this woman repeatedly in the face, head, legs, and back. Somehow, she was pulled away from the police and behind the line of protesters, where members of my team could treat her. She was having trouble staying conscious, so we called for immediate evac.
While this was going on, two more women stumbled back from the line with bloody noses, police had stopped using batons and simply started punching protesters in the face. Several people who were badly beaten were going into shock. They were shaking, hyperventilating, and vomiting.
I gave them all the same treatment: I introduced myself, asked them their names, and told them to inhale, count to four, exhale, count to four. The instructions for this breathing exercise are simpler than most, so people experiencing shock have an easier time following. However, there was nothing I could do to make them feel better about the fact that their friend was just grabbed and beaten by the police.
We detoured our march down a different side street (this is about when the police informed counter protesters where they were forcing us to go so they could cut us off and ambush us at our cars). We marched a little ways up when I heard more cries for a medic. I approached and saw it was yet another member of the leadership team who appeared dazed, and was bleeding from a cut on his nose. He asked me to check him for a concussion. I checked his pupils, they were dilating and contracting with changes in light, and he was able to quickly answer questions about himself, so it seemed he was fine. I also cleaned the cut on his nose and he went on his way.
As I was writing this, I struggled with this next part for a long time, because what happened next was absolute chaos.
We marched straight into a group of violent counter-protesters. Immediately fights broke out everywhere around me. I’m trained in deescalation but it's near impossible to deescalate an all out brawl. The police pushed us into the violent crowd, then backed off for about an hour and left us to fend for ourselves amongst the mob.
I was still working on trying to treat a few people that were injured, but there was nowhere safe to treat my patients, as we kept being approached by counter-protesters, and the nearby park was crawling with armed men hiding in the shadows. Black Unity leaders took to the PA system in the back of their truck to advise BLM to go to their cars and get out as soon as possible.
I stayed with my team to make sure everyone had a safe group to leave with. Eventually, the BLM crowd thinned out and it was just about 2 dozen of us, surrounded by white supremacists that were pushing us out of the neighborhood with the help of police.
I saw a police officer stop one white supremacist who was becoming particularly aggressive. The officer said to him “I know you think you're helping, but you're not, you’re making this even more unsafe for everyone." The counter protester then started bumping the cop and screaming in his face about how he "doesn't know who he's messing with.”
The officers eyes widened and he put one foot back, getting into a combat stance. But just before anything happened, a higher ranking officer pulled him away and they continued to allow this man to threaten and shove protesters.
I split from the crowd, separated from my team, and tried to find a safe place to evacuate from, as I didn’t want these violent counter protesters to see the license plate of my teammate's car.
I ducked down a quiet street and called for evac. As I was waiting, a large black van with tinted windows came down the street. The hair on my neck stood on end. I walked back towards the main road and the van turned to follow me. They even went as far as to swerve into the wrong lane of traffic to get close to me, but had to peel off to avoid oncoming cars. They pulled into the cul-de-sac ahead of me in order to cut me off, as I frantically called for evac. For a brief moment, I made eye contact with the driver. He was wearing a balaclava, and he had a look of absolute hatred in his eyes. This man wanted to kill me. I darted across the street and dove into the evac vehicle as quickly as i could, and we were able to get out without being followed.
We rallied with our team in a parking lot to debrief and make sure everyone got out safely. We were there for no more than 10 minutes before 2 cars full of protesters came screaming into the lot. They hopped out and were frantically screaming about how white supremacists had chased them from Thurston, across the freeway, and to the other side of Springfield. Apparently they had darted into the parking lot in order to evade the truck full of Neo Nazis that was chasing them. I never saw the truck, but the wild look on their eyes and the way they kept looking behind them every few seconds told me they had been through something harrowing. We spoke with them for a while and tried to come up with a way to keep them safe, but luckily they were able to access a nearby safe house and get off the street for the night.
The last of our team got out safe, and we left the area as quickly as possible. I don't really have a satisfying conclusion to this. I stumbled up the stairs into my apartment, and as my boots caught the light, I realized they were stained with blood and vomit. This would have been upsetting enough, but what really got to me was that I was stained with the blood of men and women I deeply respect. Men and women who fight every day to make America a better place, and are called terrorists and are met with wanton violence for trying to speak their minds.
My only solace is that I know this will not slow them down, though they may need some days to recover, sure. But the events of last night will only make them push harder to make their voices heard over those that would use violence and intimidation to drown it out. These are some resilient and amazing people leading this movement, and it’s going to take more than an army of drunk Nazis and violent police to keep them down.
Video originally posted by Alt Right counter-protesters heading toward the march:
Video of police attacking protesters over the barricade:
Portland, August 22nd
The Patriot Prayer Rally organized by the Alt Right, kicks off midday in downtown Portland on August 22nd. Multiple counter protesters attend, their live streams catching multiple incidents of intimidation and violence, including the use of mace and pointing of guns. No arrests of Alt Right protesters are made, no riot declared.
Pictured below is Alt Right protester Alan Swinney aiming a revolver at counter protesters with his finger on the trigger. ￼Photo by @pnwantifascist
Photo below by Donovan Farley captures the moment after a wheelchair bound BLM protester was mace by Proud Boys:
The following report by a local photojournalist details the events of the protest following the Alt Right Rally. Note the stark difference in how people throwing water bottles are treated vs Alt Right protesters who were entirely ignored while macing people and pointing firearms with fingers on the trigger.
10:48 March from Normandale Park to the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office got blocked by officers on the 84 overpass. Crowd dispersed and regrouped at the MCSO. The LRAD had made announcements to stay off the property right when the group had arrived. Probably a few hundred people here. Riot vans drove by the east side of the precinct (away from the main crowd), pointing their guns at us (a small group on the sidewalk) for seemingly no reason.
10:55 LRAD is making targeted announcements, telling people to stay off the property, calling out people under the trees and then announced "press and legal observers, we appreciate you being here observing and reporting, but please do not interfere in police work."
11:05 A guillotine with a teddy bear (seemingly a reference to Ted Wheeler aka Tear Gas Teddy) has been placed in the parking lot of the MCSO. More LRAD announcements to stay off the property.
11:38 "This has been declared an unlawful assembly because people are firing paintballs and throwing projectiles." I have not observed anyone throw projectiles, aside from a few water bottles.
11:59 Police start dispersing the crowd from the east, launching tear gas and less-lethal ammunition. I watched someone with a shield push back hard against an officer's batons, but the officer repeatedly struck them and pushed back hard, beating the shield as hard as possible until they stumbled over a bus bench. Also watched several officers rip someone from the crowd on the sidewalk, almost break their arm while they were kneeling on his back, rip his mask and goggles off, then let them go. They've pushed us down 44th, deeper into the neighborhoods, and declared the gathering a riot as soon as they reach the next major intersection.
12:11 During the push to the intersection, I watched multiple press members get beaten and thrown around on the sidewalk, despite complying with orders or trying to argue their legal right to film, including one instance where a press member was thrown into the bushes and then promptly pushed by another officer who told them to stop hiding in bushes. Several press friends were maced during this push (there is a temporary restraining order that makes it so officers can not touch press or legal observers). After kettling people at a major intersection, they fired off one last round of gas, one of which seemed to be nausea inducing as even after the smoke cleared, I instantly started retching and coughing harder than any other gas ever makes me. Officers retreat. Crowd is headed back to the MCSO now.
12:17 Back at the building now, LRAD says this is an unlawful assembly (first time I've ever heard it be demoted from riot back to unlawful assembly).
12:30 "This remains a riot" declares the LRAD. Crowd is just chanting and holding space in the street. I depart at this point. The rest of the report is an on the ground account by a fellow reporter (something to note, two friend were called fat by an officer and told to get back in their pig pen).
(Editor's Note- 2:10 AM: Cops made another push, more of the same behavior from before, targeted arrests and beatings, lots of mace and tear gas, this time officers pushed the group into a wall where they had to climb over in order to avoid being beaten or maced. Seems like the crowd mostly dispersed after recovering from the second push)