PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The consensus among business owners and residents KOIN 6 spoke with Tuesday was clear: the nightly protests in downtown Portland have been hijacked by criminals and that the violence and destruction has exhausted the community.
Most of the people we spoke with still support the Black Lives Matter message but said the attacks on the city only harm progress made by the racial justice movement.
Protesters overturned statues of former Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln in Downtown Sunday night, with organizers calling the event “Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage.” The Oregon Historical Society building, the Portland State University campus public safety office, a jewelry store, multiple restaurants, a coffee shop, a bank and a phone store were among the several buildings damaged.
The owner of a nearby deli, John Jackson, said bullets shattered his store’s windows. Jackson gave KOIN 6 a tour of the damage, comparing it to the horrors he saw while serving for the military in Operation Desert Storm.
“It’s the strangest thing to be quite honest,” said Jackson. “I’ve been here about ten years, I could’ve never have imagined that we’d be where we are today in Portland.”
Meantime, Mayor Ted Wheeler told KOIN 6 News he is committed to doing what it takes to make people who are downtown feel safe — while still listening to those fighting for equality and police accountability.
Since May, the Portland has cut about $15 million from the police budget — including a gun violence reduction team, transit police and a school resource officer program — but Wheeler has resisted pressure to take away more from the bureau’s nearly $250 million budget without a safety net for mental health and homelessness calls that police handle daily.
Downtown resident John Toran hopes Mayor Wheeler will sit down with protesters and get them to stop the nightly gatherings because the violence is hurting the movement’s message.
Even so, Toran said he’s hopeful about Portland’s future.
“America has a dirty past but we’ve evolved quite a bit and to me that’s a lesson to the rest of the world, that we can evolve,” he said. “I believe that’s part of our system. Are we a perfect country? No. But I wake up hoping we can be better and better every day.”