Portland protests ‘risk backfiring’ from destruction

Protests

14 arrested in destructive protests on Inauguration Day

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The 4 expected Inauguration Day protests in Portland all took place. Two of them were peaceful and caused no issues. The other 2 caused considerable damage and ended with 14 arrests and federal officers tear gassing the group who had vandalized the ICE facility.

In the afternoon, 8 people were arrested after a group smashed windows and tagged the Democratic Headquarters in Northeast Portland. Democratic officials said they’re assessing the damage and figuring out the next steps on repairs.

The protest at the ICE facility ramped up around 10 p.m. and was declared an unlawful assembly before the tear gas and arrests.

Dr. Juniper Simonis, an independent researcher with a Ph.D from Cornell in ecology and evolutionary biology, said the tear gas used in a moist environment on Wednesday night made the impact worse.

“They used more grenades then I have seen before, way more scat shells then I’ve seen before and then the thermal fogger,” Simonis said. “It’s really important for us to be centering the reason why we are out there for racial justice, for immigrant rights, for Black lives, that we center those folks, that we center that message all the time.”

Some of the protesters said they were out on Inauguration Day because they don’t believe President Biden will effect the changes they’re seeking.

Sociologist Randy Blazak said it’s important to recognize things don’t automatically change when the country moves from one administration to another, from one party to another.

“We have this strange balancing act where Portland is trying to push for these social equity issues especially around policing, but can also alienate some people from the more mainstream that we might need to bring on board to really affect this change within the institutions themselves,” Blazak said.

But he said these continued protests and forays into property damage and destruction come with “a risk of it backfiring.”

“There is a little bit of a tipping point, especially when you see a lot of mostly white people destroying things in the name of Black lives, it looks a little bit like white privilege,” he said, “because if those protesters were in Detroit or some of the other cities where they are more likely to be African-American protesters the response probably would have been different.”

He also pointed to something President Biden said in his inaugural address that was totally different.

“That was the first inaugural address that ever used the words ‘white supremacy’ to admit that we have a problem. There is now an opportunity to move from the streets to this sort of halls of institutions that have been dealing with the problem.”

This is a dramatic moment in history, Blazak said.

“Portland is playing a role in that history and moving that ball further down the court but it’s never a smooth ride. It’s always messy,” he said. “You are going to break a few eggs when you are making and omelette and its an important part of this phase that we are going through, even though it might not be as smooth as we’d always like to see it.”

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story included a video with a misuse of pronoun for Dr. Juniper Simonis. It has now been corrected to use “they.”

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