100 Nights, 100 Days: A Culture of Protest

This weekend, Portland saw its 100th night of protests against the Portland Police and their brutality. This is worth celebrating. And it’s worth taking stock of what’s been accomplished.

On its face, it might seem like not much. Part of why the protests have continued for so long is that the city government is militant in not caring about protesters’ demands. Two weeks ago, Mayor Ted Wheeler spoke at length with OPB about his efforts to stop the protests and didn’t say a single thing about why they’re happening in the first place. Commissioner JoAnn Hardesty issued a statement on Saturday listing what had been accomplished in the last 100 days, but it only highlights how little the city has done: Ending the inaccurately named Gun Violence Reduction Team, getting cops off transit and out of schools, an anemic $15 million divestment, and a ballot measure creating a police review board that will, at best, be hopelessly overwhelmed by the months of constant police violence that took place while we were waiting to vote on it. All of these accomplishments were in June. It is now September.
And they still haven’t banned teargas, which continues to poison our environment and flood our neighborhoods so badly it invades people’s homes. (Unless they’re in the Pearl. Police never use it in the Pearl for some reason.)

Given that Wheeler already wants to bring back the Gun Violence Reduction Team, the only changes that actually matter are those that can’t be taken back. So far, nobody in City Hall has been willing to offer those. Including Hardesty.

So what have we actually gained? The answer is each other.

The words "BLACK LIVES MATTER" projected onto the side of the Hatfield Courthouse in mid-June 2020.
(Times were simpler before the feds showed up. Photo Credit: Austen Lethbridge-Scarl)

Portland has become a city that is good at protesting. Damn good. Fighting the Portland Police to a standstill prepared us for fighting back the feds (who never left, by the way), and since then, the movement has broken free from the Justice Center and spread across the whole city. Actions happen almost every night, in every corner of the city, but we’ve also developed incredible infrastructure. If you can’t show up at night, there’s still plenty to do. You can build shields. You can make zines. You can cook. You can distribute water. You can provide jail support for those who were arrested. We’ve created a resilient network of activism that can’t be silenced.

And that’s why you shouldn’t worry about “playing into Trump’s hands”.

Trump is a bully. You can’t control what a bully does. Appeasing a bully doesn’t make them go away. You can’t not give them excuses. He’s already lying about Portland being on fire. Do you think you can stop him from lying about everything else? When a bully wants to throw a punch, they will and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

But here’s what you can do: Prepare. React. Find support. Defend yourself. Fight back. After 100 nights and 100 days of work, that’s what Portland has learned how to do. Maybe Trump will single us out, but there’s no city in this country more prepared to answer him. We did it before. We’ll do it again.

I’m proud of you, Portland. I love this city.

A dramatically flaming picnic table in the middle of the street outside Ted Wheeler's condo in the Pearl.
(Ted Wheeler couldn’t even be bothered to show up for his own birthday party. Photo credit: Austen Lethbridge-Scarl)

About Austen Lethbridge-Scarl

Austen Lethbridge-Scarl (he/him) is the editor of the XRPDX newsletter. Besides climate issues, he focuses on racial justice, police abolition and antifascism.


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