PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Reacting to social media posts calling for a “day of decentralized action,” both the Multnomah County District Attorney and the Portland Police Bureau announced plans for more officers on the streets and increased prosecution.
The social media post urges people on March 6 — Saturday — to “answer the call to action more fully and effectively without the spectacle of a mass protest.” The implication is that the “direct action” won’t be centrally organized and will be in various parts of the city.
The post urges people to “take action in whichever ways they’re personally drawn to.” Other online posts encourage people to “destroy” and “cause chaos.”
What the DA says
Friday afternoon, DA Mike Schmidt said any damage or violent behavior won’t be tolerated.
“Recent riotous activity and wanton destruction of private property that targets businesses struggling to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic does not appear connected to the calls for social justice and system reform, which I strongly support. Instead, these destructive acts only serve to harm our community. My office will continue to prosecute acts of violence and property destruction,” Schmidt said in a statement.
What law enforcement says
This weekend, PPB announced they would add more staff to address not only the planned “public disorder,” but also the rise in shootings in the city.
Specifically, they said 12 officers from the newly created Enhanced Community Safety Team will work both Friday and Saturday nights to follow up on recent shootings and bolster the work by patrol officers.
Noting they’ve heard the community’s calls to stop the “vandalism and senseless destruction” that has peppered Portland for months, PPB said they would deploy more uniformed personnel “to keep watch in areas commonly targeted by vandals and respond quickly to any calls of public disorder.”
PPB Sgt. Steve Allen told KOIN 6 News that the goal is to get to the scene as quickly as possible.
“Anytime we get word of this kind of activity, we do make tactical plans and try to have folks working and on standby and we are doing that this weekend,” he said.
PPB Chief Chuck Lovell also issued a statement Friday that said, in part, “We are adding officers to work this weekend to help address any criminal behavior and make arrests and criminal charges when possible to be responsive to our community’s concerns.”
Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese said his office plans to collaborate with “criminal justice partners” in the wake of potential destruction.
PPB Association President Brian Hunzeker said PPB staffing levels are about half the size of some cities with similar populations — and it shows.
“How many resources do you put to a situation like this? That is what our chief of police is having a difficult time addressing.”
Stan Penkin, the president of the Pearl District Neighborhood Association, said they also need more law enforcement. During the destruction last week in the Pearl District, PPB said their resources were stretched thin due to a number of shootings in the city at the same time.
“Our police really work hard, but it’s underresourced and they can’t continue this way,” Penkin told KOIN 6 News.
Pearl District damage
Last Saturday, dozens of people marched through the Pearl District, spray painting graffiti on buildings and windows, smashing windows and causing other damage over more than 2 hours. Two people were arrested, including a juvenile.
At that time, police said they were limited to addressing criminal behavior among the protesters due to several shootings that occurred around the city while the demonstration was ongoing.
Pearl District Neighborhood Association President Stan Penkin said he was “disappointed” in the lack of communication between the community and the city on how to respond to the demonstrations, particularly when there was advanced warning that there would be destruction.