PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland residents and business owners are again asking the city to stop another wave of vandalism and violence from rocking the Pearl District during a “direct action” march expected this weekend.
Mayor Ted Wheeler held an online Town Hall on Thursday to discuss the vandalism that has been so pervasive over the past 10 months. The Zoom event, hosted by Venture Portland, got a bit heated as a person defended the vandalism as a means of “protest,” sparking a reaction from Wheeler.
The Town Hall came less than a week after Portland police surrounded and briefly detained about 100 people during some vandalism in Northwest Portland’s Pearl District. A total of 13 people were arrested that night.
PPB said it warned the crowd that failure to comply with lawful orders could result in arrest and exposure to tear gas, and it invited news reporters, legal observers and anyone with medical conditions to leave the enclosed area.
Those who left were identified and photographed as part of an investigation, police said. Others locked arms and refused; officers escorted them away and arrested them, including a suspect in the earlier window vandalism, officers said.
Some of the protesters also confronted the police, throwing rocks and full cans of beer, according to PPB. Officers reported using pepper spray.
Many residents who spoke at Thursday’s Town Hall praised police for using the “kettling” technique to control the crowd.
“What the police did in the Pearl recently, the kettling, is such a good solution to ID the people who are doing the damage and drawing a line,” said Wendy Rahm of Portland. Another resident, Walter Weyler, said the police response gave him hope.
But another man expressed a much different opinion. Javier Reyes defended the vandalism and blamed city leaders, in part, for not following through on a list of “demands” which included further defunding the police and Wheeler’s resignation as mayor. He said, “You expect the people who are upset enough to break a window to meet you halfway when you won’t even step down from your position on this?”
Wheeler replied, “When you say ‘listen to your demands’ do you mean listen? Or do you mean agree to all of them? Because I’ve heard your demands and I commented on your demands and I reject them. I don’t agree with them; that’s my opinion and I’m entitled to it.”
“Like you said, you are entitled to them,” retorted Reyes. “But when you choose to do this, to ignore a large portion of your population who feels this way, let’s not forget that most people voted against you in the popular election.”
The mayor denied ignoring such groups, saying he “responded to their concerns.” Wheeler ended the exchange by saying he doesn’t agree with the demands of defunding the police by 50% and added he has no intention of stepping down. He concluded, “I’m not willing to resign because I was elected through a democratic process and I still believe in democracy. I don’t believe in anarchy.”
Pearl District Neighborhood Association President Stan Penkin wrapped up the forum by saying there is a real fear that more destruction could happen this coming weekend. He asked the city to bring in other law enforcement agencies if they felt they were going to have an issue with resources.