Last Saturday night was clear and warm, and the concert at Roseland Theater--featuring an all-star lineup of hiphop artists--was, by all accounts, a high-voltage affair. As the show ended around midnight, about 300 excited teens spilled onto Burnside, waiting for rides and trying to hook up with friends. And as one witness assured the Mercury, the crowd's excitement was just that: non-violent excitement.
Even so, only minutes after the concert ended, a squad car rolled down Burnside and, with lights flashing, tried to push past the crowd. Once through, the squad car moved up the street and vanished. Then, a few minutes later, several police returned, dressed head-to-toe in riot gear. According to several witnesses, police then began wading through the crowd and pepper-spraying the teens.
"It was totally unprovoked and totally unnecessary," said one witness. Even the security guards reportedly attempted to corral concert-goers back into the Roseland, in order to protect them from the police.
"I went out after the show to get some air," said Cory Sunfly Jones, a member of Living Legends, who performed earlier that night. "I noticed a police man with a big gun, and these bullet-looking things on the side. I didn't even believe it was a real gun at first. So I went up to the cop and I was like, 'What the hell do you have that gun for?' And he was all like, 'Step back!' Basically, we almost got into a fight."
Jones then saw a couple of teens sitting on the curb nearby. At first he thought that they were crying, but they later explained they had been pepper sprayed.
"I was overwhelmed to see these guys walking around with guns, when there was all these kids... I mean, they tried to say the kids were throwing rocks and shit, but I didn't see anything. We've been to Portland a bunch of times, and we ain't never seen anything like this. I thought I was in the WTO," he said.
Then, as quickly as they had arrived, the police vanished.
To bring even more concern to Saturday night's event, the police bureau has no record of the incident. This raises the troubling question: Were the officers simply acting as freelance vigilantes? PHIL BUSSE