A Riot Ribs volunteer grilling racks of ribs.
A Riot Ribs volunteer grilling racks of ribs. Celeste Noche

In just three weeks, Riot Ribs has grown from one man grilling on the corner of SW 3rd and Salmon to a veritable empire of free food. With its dozens of coolers and mountains of bread, charcoal, and snacks, the 24-7 outdoor kitchen has been providing complimentary meals to protesters and passersby alike since July 4, serving up plates of hamburgers, potato salad, cheesecake, and yes, ribs to thousands of Portlanders and visitors—often while enduring tear gas and munitions from federal agents stationed across the street.

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Now, the volunteer-run eatery is announcing two major changes: a shift in Portland leadership, and the creation of a new mobile unit.

“We would like to transition Riot Ribs over to organizations that are better equipped to provide permanent mutual aid in Portland,” explains Riot Ribs spokesperson Beans. “We feel as though we have a moral obligation to work with other mutual aid groups across the country and spread our resources.”

To this end, Riot Ribs Portland will be transferring leadership—and the majority of funds—to police accountability group Don’t Shoot PDX with Don't Shoot's Demetria Hester acting the point person for the transition. Meanwhile, a mobile Riot Ribs spinoff, dubbed Revolution Ribs, will be hitting the road with in a pair of newly purchased vans stocked with food, grills, and coolers.

“With Trump sending feds to other cities nationwide, and with many of us having no permanent residence or employment in Portland, we believe that what we learned in Portland can be taken to other cities,” says Beans. Revolution Ribs currently plans to debut in California and New Mexico before heading east.

Riot Ribs, which operates solely on donations, has seen a flurry of support in the weeks since its original launch. Portlanders have stopped by Lownsdale Square, where the kitchen currently operates, to drop off food, grills, and cooking supplies, as well as shoes and other donations for Riot Ribs’ houseless volunteers. The Riot Ribs Venmo handle has been shared by everyone from US Representative Earl Blumenauer to celebrities like Busy Philipps, leading to an influx of cash donations.

“We’ve raised over $300,000 within 21 days and frankly, this is too much money to reasonably spend,” says Beans. “No single organization needs this much money to make a difference.” Faced with an influx of funds beyond what it can currently spend, Riot Ribs has stopped accepting monetary donations, and has warned well-intentioned supporters against donating to fraudulent or copy-cat Riot Ribs accounts.

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Two Riot Ribs cooks, Mike and Ty, will stay behind in Portland to assist with the leadership transition. Beans—who, in addition to serving as spokesperson, also manages the group’s funds and social media—will remain in Portland as well. The Portland group intends to coordinate with local protest groups, particularly the Wall of Moms, Dads, Parents, and Vets, to recruit new volunteers for the Lownsdale Square location.

“We ensure you that Portland will continue to be fed,” says Beans. “Food is a human right.”

To that end, Riot Ribs will honor its original mantra: Eat ’til you’re full.

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