PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — After a weekend protest left behind a path of broken glass, graffiti and a burned dumpster, the head of the Portland Police Association says there needs to be a frank conversation in the city about accountability.
“Wanton destruction and arson have no place in a functioning society. Whenever we ignore it, we fan the flames. Wherever we excuse it, we acknowledge its legitimacy,” Sgt. Aaron Schmautz said in the letter posted Sunday night.
On Saturday Night, a post called for a march in honor of Patrick Lyoya at Peninsula Park. Lyoya was shot and killed by police in Michigan and has become the latest death to add to the nation’s conversation about racial justice and police use of force.
Two banks were tagged with graffiti, multiple businesses had smashed windows, and bus stations were also damaged in the wake.
“Lately it’s been just vandalism,” said James Polk, the owner of JP’s custom framing and gallery, located a block from the PPB North Precinct and the area where the protestors were.
Polk’s business was unscathed this weekend, but he’s had windows busted out before.
“If you protest, protest, but why would you vandalize businesses just trying to make it?” Polk wondered.
Polk’s question is echoed by city leaders.
“I’m upset that another Black person, Patrick Lyoya, was killed by police in Grand Rapids as well, but these actions by a small group that put public employees in danger and damaged public infrastructure like bus stations in a diverse Portland neighborhood are unacceptable,” said Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty. “I’m a child of the civil rights movement and a committed non-violent activist who believes strongly in strategic direct action and protest, but these actions do nothing to further racial justice.”
Schmautz says he believes the violence speaks louder than any message a protest is intended to convey.
“If they want to have their voice heard I encourage them to consider the fact that if you want to engage in that discourse, it has to be done without violence surrounding it, or your message is lost,” Schmautz said.
The neighborhood around the North Precinct has been battered, Polk says. He says he and his neighbors have had to repeatedly replace windows, mostly paying out of pocket because the price isn’t higher than the insurance deductible.
“I drove to Easter Mass on Sunday morning, and I was horrified to see all-too-familiar destruction in my neighborhood,” Said Commissioner Dan Ryan, “How is this helpful? What is accomplished for Patrick Lyoya and Black lives when you do hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage in one of the most historic Black neighborhoods in Portland?”
No arrests have been made to this point and no charges passed to the Multnomah County District Attorney, according to the office.
That’s not uncommon for protests in the city as of late. PPB and Schmautz both say the risk of escalating violence or tempers by arresting one person can but many officers in harm’s way.
“People feel like people should be stopped in the midst of this behavior and that’s sometimes difficult to do,” Schmautz said.
“If you go to arrest one person, you may enact a large fight with a lot of people. It’s very dangerous,’ Schmautz said.
PPB notes that in several instances, they have made arrests after destructive protests days after they occur, relying on investigations, videos, and tips from the community.
Schmautz says his officers have welcomed accountability and hopes the community protesting police actions feel the same.
“We talk about bad apples in law enforcement. If you’re engaged in a legitimate civil discourse, a protest, which again we fully support, and you see people throwing gas cans and mal-tov cocktails at police, that is disrupting your ability to say what you have to say,” Schmautz said.
As Polk reflects on the damage in his strip mall, he wonders why fellow businesses like his are still forced to clean up and pay for the mess. In nearly 30 years in business, he says he’s never experienced something like it.
“We have differences of opinions. That’s life. But, I’m not going to destroy your property and I’d hope that you wouldn’t destroy my property because we’re all just trying to make a living,” Polk said.
KOIN 6 News reached out to community leaders for reaction to the weekend protest. Here are their statements in full.
Mayor Ted Wheeler:
“The so-called ‘direct action’ by self-described anarchists that took place in North Portland this weekend is nothing less than senseless violence and a blatant attack on our community. Using the tragic death of Patrick Lyoya as an opportunity to destroy local businesses is despicable and criminal. My administration will do everything in its power to bring these individuals to justice. The City will support offering a reward for information leading to the arrest and successful prosecution of those involved.
I want to thank all the public servants who took action to respond to the destruction as it was happening, and those who spent Easter Sunday cleaning up the aftermath. Working together, we will put an end to these shameful, lawless acts and reclaim our city.”
Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty:
“I’m upset that another Black person, Patrick Lyoya, was killed by police in Grand Rapids as well, but these actions by a small group that put public employees in danger and damaged public infrastructure like bus stations in a diverse Portland neighborhood are unacceptable. I’m a child of the civil rights movement and a committed non-violent activist who believes strongly in strategic direct action and protest, but these actions do nothing to further racial justice. I’m thankful Portland Fire & Rescue was able to safely put out the fire and appreciate their work under these difficult circumstances.”
Commissioner Dan Ryan:
“I drove to Easter Mass on Sunday morning, and I was horrified to see all-too-familiar destruction in my neighborhood. A TriMet stop was dismantled, a small café suffered damage—public and private property alike was vandalized. And for what? How is this helpful? What is accomplished for Patrick Lyoya and Black lives when you do hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage in one of the most historic Black neighborhoods in Portland?
These actions take away City resources that could be used to create real, grassroots racial justice. They take away small businesses’ resources—businesses that have barely hung on throughout the pandemic and are finally opening their doors. This needs to stop, and there need to be consequences for everyone involved in criminal acts.”
Commissioner Mingus Mapps:
“This weekend was another very challenging two days for public safety. I, like many Portlanders, am baffled and angry about more senseless rioting. I support our officers and justice system to bring an end to anarchy in Portland.”
Commissioner Carmen Rubio:
“Patrick Lyoya’s murder deserves our outrage and reminds us of the work we must do as a nation to respect all people. The collective damage to our community, including a community anchor like Peninsula Park, does not advance that work. As Parks Commissioner, I want parks to remain welcoming, safe gathering spaces, and I’m grateful that Parks staff are already restoring the park. I hope Peninsula Park continues to be a space to gather, decry injustice, and advocate for meaningful reforms.”
The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office:
Our attorneys review every case that is referred to our office based on facts and evidence and charge accordingly when a crime has been committed. No cases have been referred to our office at this time from the violent acts that occurred on Saturday. Our top priorities are accountability, public safety and protecting the rights of victims.