‘Terrorized by police,’ Portland renters start petition

Protests

Tenants at Essex House Apartments are fed up with police response to downtown Portland protests

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Those who live in downtown Portland believe crowd control tactics used by police during protests are making their home unlivable.

A group of tenants living at Essex House Apartments told KOIN 6 News on Tuesday they feel ignored after reaching out to police and the office of Mayor Ted Wheeler. They also claim the apartment management is failing to protect them.

The Essex House is a several-storied building located on SW 3rd Avenue between SW Jefferson and SW Columbia streets. One city block separates it from the Multnomah County Justice Center, which is neighbors with the U.S. federal courthouse building. The area has seen nightly clashes between protesters and police for nearly two months.

The sentiment among the group is that the ongoing situation near the Justice Center and federal courthouse building has left them feeling as if they’re living in a war zone. They believe the Portland Police Bureau’s response to the protests has made matters worse and the arrival of federal officers caused further deterioration.

Many residents complained of being constantly woken in the middle of the night by flashbangs, sirens and loud police announcements. They also reported tear gas wafting into their apartments, even when their windows are shut, causing headaches and other health issues.

“I think it’s easy to forget that this is also a residential community,” said Essex House resident Pamela Bonsu. “While it’s also a place people may come to and they might shop or work that, for some of us, this is also the place where we’ve built community within our building and within the area.”

Some said they feel unsafe leaving their homes at night but it’s not due to the behavior of the protesters.

The Essex House Apartments in downtown Portland, July 21, 2020. (KOIN)

“The only harassment that I have dealt with has not been from protesters,” said Essex House Apartments resident Hes Sonnier. “Yes, there are some people that are there taking advantage of what is going on but the majority of the people they are peaceful, they are showing up, they’re not causing property damage. They’re certainly not looting. I’m not being held up and terrorized by protesters—I’m being terrorized by police forces, by federal forces.”

The group started a petition calling for an end to police use of force during protests. More than 2,000 people have so far signed the petition.

“We do not want to take attention away from protesters and the people that are most being impacted by this, we’re just trying to show another dimension of the level of police brutality and federal violence and excessive force is indiscriminate,” Sonnier explained. 

KOIN 6 News has reached out to Essex management, the Portland Police Bureau and the mayor’s office and is waiting to hear back.

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