Escalation in Portland

Photos: Mike Hastie.

It is almost 4:00AM in Portland, as I write this piece.  About eight hours ago a group of protesters took steps that will surely take things to another level in the on going demonstrations in this city that started in May, shortly  after George Floyd was murdered on May 25, 2020, by a Minneapolis police officer by the name of Derek Chauvin.

That ex-police officer is now out on bail and living out of state.

On Sunday night October 11, 2020, two historic statues were toppled in a inner city park that is near Portland State Univ. It is often referred to as the South Park Blocks. Both statues are about seventy yards from each other. There is a ten foot bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln that was dedicated  on October 5, 1928. There is also a very large bronze statue  of Teddy Roosevelt on horseback as a “Rough Rider,” that was  dedicated in 1922. Red-orange paint was sprayed on Lincoln’s  hands, and red-orange paint was sprayed in Roosevelt’s eyes, and on the ground where Roosevelt’s head landed. On his face is written, ” Black Lives Matter.” On his hat is written, ” Say Their Names.”  The Oregon Historical Society is located very near both statues. All the windows and glass doors where shattered all  around the building. This can all be seen in the four photographs that are attached. Note: I doubt very seriously if a Black citizen was involved in this action.

I have lived in Portland for 44 years. I have photographed many of the demonstrations since May. Like so many people, I have been  targeted by the Portland police. I was lucky, because I could have  been seriously injured. I was naive at times, because I thought the  police would not get extreme. I am very concerned now, because  the “Proud Boys” are starting to show up at these demonstrations  with their loaded guns. I saw a video last night where a woman  reporter was questioning one of the “Proud Boys” who was carrying an AR-15 rifle. She wanted to know what he was going to do with  that weapon, and the “Proud Boy” called her a ” cunt.” He had a U.S.  flag face mask on. The video showed his absolute punk arrogance.

When a vigilante carries a deadly weapon and is belligerent, it is just a matter of time before his trigger finger takes the law into his own hands. I am afraid with the recent toppling of these two statues,  and the damage done to the Oregon Historical Society, and the  Portland Police Union coming out and supporting Donald Trump for president, that shit may happen in this city that is going to be unprecedented. And then, of course, are there provocateurs involved  in all of this?

I am sure what happened here is going to make national news in  several more hours. Trump will once again target Portland as the lawless city. Everyone here is going to be on edge, because there  are so many things happening as the election is just around the corner. I think there are many people wearing emotional seat belts. I hope my concerns are in my imagination.

Mike Hastie served as an Army Medic in Vietnam.