A PPB officer facing a crowd the evening of July 4, 2020.
A PPB officer facing a crowd the evening of July 4, 2020. Mathieu Lewis-Rolland

The president of the Portland Police Association (PPA), Portland's union representing rank-and-file officers, is condemning local officials for defending the rights of protesters who participate in Portland's nightly demonstrations.

"These rioters come out nightly armed with weapons and a plan to cause as much destruction as possible," wrote PPA President Daryl Turner in an email sent to media Monday. "...It is clear they have drawn attention away from an important message about social and racial equity that needs to be heard... Their destructive and chaotic behavior defines the meaning of white privilege; their total disregard for people, property, and the law embodies entitlement."

Tuner is referring to the members of the public who've continued to meet in downtown Portland (occasionally elsewhere) to protest police brutality since the May 29 death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. While the size of the original protests has shrunk from thousands to hundreds, these nightly events are still centered on a movement against racist and abusive policing.

The demonstrations, usually led by Black Portlanders, have attracted a heavy-handed response from officers with the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) and other law enforcement agencies.

During these events, some protesters have thrown fireworks, water bottles, and rocks in officers' direction and pointed laser beams in their eyes. Others have lit bonfires in the street, used spray paint to graffiti government buildings, and smashed windows in a public restroom.

Portland police have responded to this action by shooting rubber bullets, pepper balls, pepper spray, flash-bang grenades, and tear gas into crowds of protesters. Officers' seemingly indiscriminate use of "less lethal" weapons against the public has inspired multiple lawsuits over the past month, with lawyers arguing that police cannot punish entire crowds for crimes committed by an individual.

Elected officials, including Gov. Kate Brown, Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, and Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, have criticized the police response to these demonstrations, calling on Mayor Ted Wheeler and PPB Chief Chuck Lovell to rein in officer's militaristic use of force. Turner called out these officials in his Monday statement.

"What angers me and the good people of Portland, even more, is that elected officials at the state and local levels are defending these criminal actions while in the same breath demonizing and vilifying the officers on the front lines protecting our communities, our safety, our livelihood, and our rights," Turner wrote.

"Police are defending the property of business owners whose livelihoods are at stake while these criminals loot and burn their businesses," he continued. "Police are defending government buildings that will be the meeting places where reforms at all levels of government will take place..... Understand that it is a sign of strength, not weakness, to support the rank-and-file officers who are out on the front lines being assaulted, taking verbal and physical abuse, and working endless hours without rest."

Turner ultimately calls on officials to "do their jobs."

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"It is time for our elected officials to stand up and defend Portland," he writes. "Condemn the violence and the burning, looting, and destruction of property."

Turner, whose job is to protect the rights of PPA's 900 members, is quick to criticize elected officials for supporting anti-police rhetoric. In the past, he's condemned Wheeler for limiting the police's response to protests against US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and blamed PPB's low recruitment levels on the "anti-police sentiment" held by Portland City Council.

It appears that this time, however, Turner is on the same page as both Wheeler and Lovell. Turner's message echoes one shared by Wheeler Friday afternoon, which declared: "Violence and vandalism detract from the importance of the larger movement for justice."