Back the Blue: Police supporters rally outside Justice Center

Special Reports

"There’s so much destruction. There’s so much hatred. It needs to stop."

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A few dozen people took to the streets and sidewalks outside the Justice Center Sunday afternoon, their “Back the Blue” signs and paper hearts standing in stark contrast to the graffiti and debris around them.

“I know that officers aren’t perfect, but for the most part, you know, they’re here to protect us,” Audra Price said. “I’ve been to some of the rallies. I’ve seen how they’re treated and how …. they have to just stand there and take it.”

Price, whose father is a retired deputy, said that’s been hard for her to see. Now Price and other police supporters are trying to counteract that, using social media as a place to organize. One pro-police group has gained more than 8,500 members in just three weeks.

“Watching what’s happening down here and how the cops aren’t allowed to do their jobs, and they have to put up with filthy names,” Lake Oswego resident Sally Hill said. “It’s just not right, so we’re trying to show the other side.”

When asked why it’s taken so long for counter demonstrations to pop up, and why they’re so much smaller than the nightly protests downtown, many people cited the “silent majority.”

“They’re afraid to come out,” Hill said. “They’re not used to seeing things like this.”

“We wanted to let the other side have their voice, have their time, let them say what they want to say, and it’s getting to be too much,” Shelby Walman said. “There’s so much destruction. There’s so much hatred. It needs to stop.”

Several people confronted the group or shouted at them from cars or across the street. However, many of the police supporters acknowledged there is room for reform, and said they wished everyone could have that discussion in a calm way.

“Nobody likes bad cops,” Walman said. “We all want accountability. But we’re not being violent against it. We’re not yelling in people’s faces, we’re being polite. (Other protesters are) not being polite. You know, they’re throwing things at cops. I’m not throwing things at cops but I would support accountability.”

Within hours of the pro-police protests, most of the blue paper hearts with notes like “We love you” and “Keep fighting the good fight” had been ripped off the outer walls of the police building. A black-clad protester sprayed red paint over the pro-police messages Price’s daughter had written in chalk on the sidewalk.

A separate group congregated Sunday near the concrete fountain that used to hold the Chapman Square elk statue. Standing in front of the crumbled, scorched and graffiti-covered cement, Eric Post picked up the crumbled remains of an American Flag he had planted there the previous day.

“When it’s an American flag, in an American city, on Independence Day, and it only lasts 15 minutes before it’s destroyed is a sign that there’s incredible amounts of pain that we have to stop and pause all the violence in order to fix,” Post told KOIN 6 News after speaking to around 40 people, calling for civility and an end to the “madness.”

Post said he wants to talk to the peaceful protesters.

“I actually believe that racism is gross,’ he said. “I believe that police brutality, and oppression and abuse of any kind is 100% wrong. What I also believe is wrong is indiscriminately attacking police, is indiscriminately burning my city, our city … and I’m not alone.”

Angela Borland, who lives outside of Portland and was visiting the city Sunday for the first time since the protests started more than a month ago, agreed.

“A lot of people actually agree on a lot of the issues that are being talked about, but there’s so many emotions on both sides that nobody is being heard and no progress is being made,” Borland said.

Eric Post stands in front of the Elk Fountain in downtown Portland on July 5, 2020 (Hannah Ray Lambert)

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