Last week, a coalition of groups including XRPDX sent an open letter to Governor Kate Brown regarding violence from the Portland Police Bureau and her response to the Portland protests. Based on what happened this Saturday, it almost seems premature.
The day began with 50 Portland Police officers being federally deputized, giving them the authority to arbitrarily issue federal charges against anyone, entirely bypassing Multnomah County’s criminal justice system. This is a significant upgrade to the deputization of the Oregon State Police mentioned in our letter and means that many Portland Police officers now effectively work for the US Attorney’s office. Unless revoked early, they will keep these powers for one year. Brown also temporarily overruled Mayor Ted Wheeler’s belated total ban on CS teargas.
This was done in anticipation of events later in the day, where the Proud Boys would hold a rally in Delta Park, which prompted counterprotests in Peninsula and Irving Parks further south. The city was braced for a violent clash but it ended up being a lovely afternoon, mostly on account of the counterprotests being organized at other locations and the Proud Boys apparently deciding against making a trip to antagonize them.
Unfortunately, this was entirely negated by what can only be described as a ferocious escalation by the Portland Police later that night. Clearly emboldened by their new gifts from Kate Brown, the police viciously chased and beat protesters, while continuing to ignore the Temporary Restraining Order against targeting journalists, as they beat a vision-impaired journalist and violently arrested her guide and also knocked 73-year-old photographer John Rudoff to the ground. Kate Brown’s response to this brutality was to ask the police to investigate themselves.
So, in summary, this means that Kate Brown gave the Portland Police new powers in anticipation of a crisis that never happened, which they then immediately used against the people of Portland and which they may potentially keep for a year to come.
As this crisis deepens, every word in our open letter is more relevant than ever. Please give it a read.