[This year's news cycle was a vicious one, and left little time for reflection. As 2020 nears its end, we're taking the opportunity to look back on the most important Mercury stories written during the past year. This article was originally published on June 1, 2020. We hope you'll consider making a monthly contribution to the Mercury to help continue our work into next year and beyond.—eds.]
Hey good friends,
Last night was Sunday, May 31, and I along with a couple thousand others were out on the street in front of the Multnomah County Justice Center. I was covering the rally to remember George Floyd and end police brutality, because a) sure, that’s my job, b) our small staff is severely overworked, and c) I’m in the give-a-crap club. I’ve adored Portland from the moment I arrived, and while our current hellscape seems to be inexplicably getting even worse, being out there with you last night reminded me how much I adore you.
Look, I know how the media can misrepresent protests—and while the Mercury tries to avoid it, even we fall into time-worn traps of focusing on the result of destruction (broken windows, looting) rather than the cause (economic and racial disparity, an unnecessarily-militarized police force). So I want to take a moment to describe something I saw last night that doesn’t fall into that narrative.
It was around 11:30 pm, and I (and at least a thousand more) had been gassed, flash-banged, and chased around the downtown corridor for hours. We had returned to the Justice Center, and the crowd was overwhelmingly polite. In fact, every single time I saw someone act out—trying to distribute fireworks, toss water bottles at cops—they were immediately shut down by fellow protesters.
In any case, late in the evening something happened that made the cops nervous, and once again flash bangs flew, and tear gas filled the air. The majority of the crowd was forced back into the downtown area, though one small group didn’t move. They were nose-to-nose with a line of riot cops on the south side of the building, just out of distance from the gas. I didn’t run, because they didn’t.