Yesterday, I got an answer from the Portland Police Bureau about why—after personally asking supervising official Commander Sara Westbrook whether I could leave a police kettle Saturday night—I was detained with dozens of other protesters apparently facing arrest.
The simple answer? A police spokesman says Westbrook didn't recognize me—even though I thought she did.
She wanted me to pass along that she didn't recognize you from being interviewed in the past and if she had, would have had you pulled out sooner.
I suspect the same to be true for most of the officers at the scene—TV folks wearing identifiable clothing, gear, etc., easier to discern that they were media.
As you might have read, I complained bitterly on Sunday morning about that interaction. Before the kettle got tight, after a PA van descended and announced that everyone gathered was "under arrest," I shouted for her attention and made eye contact and waved a notebook and asked if I'd been snared like everyone else. I was told I was. (Eventually, a sergeant I'd never met, Richard Stainbrook, said he recognized me and let me out.)
I assumed Westbrook gave her answer while knowing full well that I'm the annoying Mercury reporter who often haunts protests. I didn't think that was much of a stretch. For a lot of the march Saturday, with a dead phone, I was actually carrying and using a notebook.
But more than that, just two weeks ago or so, before the Million Mask March on November 15, we nodded at one another in the manner of people who are acquainted. And I mentioned her promotion to the head of East Precinct and we talked about fall weather and bicycling. We'd first been introduced three years ago during the Occupy protests.
It's possible she didn't connect me to those events in the heat of a protest kettle. Or she might not have remembered me at all, even when we spoke on November 15. The Oregonian's interview with bureau spokesman Sergeant Pete Simpson put a finer point on things.
Simpson relayed that Westbrook "did not recognize Denis as anyone she knew.''
"Media being contained within the crowd was an unfortunate byproduct of the need to gain containment before making arrests,'' Simpson said.
It wasn't just me who wound up in the kettle. KGW's Mike Benner was initially caught. But later I saw his and his camera operator's tell-tale yellow ponchos maneuvering safely behind the riot lines. I was still inside, waiting to see what would happen. So was the omnipresent protest filmer who posts under the handle Laughing With Liberals.
After the declaration that we'd all be arrested, we were told we'd be let go, one-by-one. And yet 10 protesters were still arrested and given charges at the end of the night. I've asked for an explanation of why some were arrested and some were not, and why some were booked and some were merely cited.
Simpson did offer up the logic behind the shifting PA instructions. It's to get compliance quickly and build a stronger interfering with a peace officer case with the prosecutor's office.
Also, regarding the PA instructions, we are required to give those instructions when we are going to make arrests to ensure prosecutable cases (that people heard instructions and willfully disobeyed them). It does not in anyway mean that everyone WILL be actually arrested.
That distinction isn't sitting well with everyone. Notably, right wing commenters.
@VictoriaTaft @PortlandPolice @theriaultpdx "Everyone is under arrest" said many times. "Detained" was never said http://t.co/YF5QSmYXPW
— Laughing At Liberals (@LaughAtLibs) December 1, 2014
Update 1:27 PM: After the jump, read Mayor Charlie Hales' statement on how police handled last weekend's protests—and also how they plan to handle future events.
One unwavering red line? "When possible," meaning when the numbers aren't so outrageous that officers won't be overwhelmed, protesters won't ever be allowed onto freeways, like in other cities.
Walking onto an interstate highway with cars traveling at a high rate of speed is both foolish and dangerous. It’s dangerous for protesters, but it’s dangerous for drivers, too. We expect Portland Police to prevent such reckless protests, when possible.
Another? Don't mess up public transportation. Click for the rest.
MONDAY, DEC. 1, 2014 – Portland is a city that demonstrates. And that’s a great thing.
Especially now in a community, and in a nation, coming to terms with the divisive issues of racial inequity, income inequality, and a lack of services for people with mental illness.
As the free-speech events this past week have shown, thousands of Portlanders have very real concerns, very real emotions, and very real histories of unjust decisions. These Portlanders deserve to be heard. It’s their right to be heard.
But even in less-stressful times, civic demonstrations are part of the everyday norm in Portland. Almost every week, Portland Police work to keep public demonstrations safe – for participants and for all Portlanders. That includes permitted rallies and unpermitted rallies.
That won’t change.
Most often, the hundreds of demonstrations end peacefully. Sometimes the media notice. Sometimes not. Sometimes the demonstrations lead to a change in public policy. Sometimes not. Some end in arrests. Not many, but some. Each demonstration is a balancing act, protecting rights of assembly and speech, vs. residents’ ability to move around their city.
We had demonstrations almost every day this past week. One on Saturday ended in 10 arrests after hours of engagement with police throughout the Portland west side.
These are our community’s expectations for demonstrations:
The first thing we cannot tolerate is anyone being injured. Public safety for all Portlanders – demonstrators and bystanders alike – is paramount. This past week, we saw demonstrations in which organizers attempted to lead people onto highways. Walking onto an interstate highway with cars traveling at a high rate of speed is both foolish and dangerous. It’s dangerous for protesters, but it’s dangerous for drivers, too. We expect Portland Police to prevent such reckless protests, when possible.
The second public safety priority is vandalism. We cannot allow property to be damaged.
The third public safety priority is any demonstration that substantively interferes with Portlanders’ ability to move around their city. That includes streets, highways and light rail lines. Because those are owned by the community at large and serve the community at large.
If you’re a parent making $15 per hour and your day care charges an extra $1 for every minute you’re late, then a demonstration that blocks a bus or train or a highway has real consequences in your life. Many low-income citizens rely on public transit every day just to make ends meet. So we draw the line at demonstrations that stop Portlanders from getting to and from their jobs and their homes.
Waiting an extra light cycle or two for a parade to pass is a reasonable price to pay for living in a free Democracy. Demonstrations that disrupt the transit system for a large number of Portlanders cross the line of fairness for all.
We will continue to have demonstrations in Portland. And we should. It’s part of the nature of this city. And the Portland Police Bureau will continue to work to keep demonstrators safe, and all Portland residents safe. They will do so while ensuring that First Amendment rights are respected in this city.