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Mike Schmidt Will Start Work As Multnomah County DA on August 1

Mike Schmidt
Mike Schmidt campaign photo

Mike Schmidt, Multnomah County's district attorney-elect, will take over the role beginning August 1.

In May, Multnomah County voters elected Mike Schmidt to serve as the county's next district attorney. Schmidt was expected to start in January, when current District Attorney Rod Underhill's term expired. But last month, Underhill resigned early amid a global wave of protests against police brutality and the criminal justice system, leaving the position vacant as of July 31, his last day.

Gov. Kate Brown announced Monday morning that she is appointing Schmidt to start work in August, so he can fill in the gap before his first term officially starts.

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Good Morning, News: More Tear Gas, Fewer Voting Rights, and Remembering Summer Taylor

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Law enforcement used tear gas at the July 4 protests in downtown Portland.
Law enforcement used tear gas at the July 4 protests in downtown Portland. Alex Zielinski

Good morning, Portland! Let's start this Monday morning by recognizing Summer Taylor, the protester who was fatally hit by a car on Interstate 5 in Seattle this weekend. They have been described as "a positive force of nature" who "brings joy and laughter everywhere they go."

Okay, here are the headlines.

• In addition to fireworks, this year's Fourth of July also saw tear gas clouds and trash can fires in downtown Portland. Our Alex Zielinski was there—here's her account of what happened.

• Over in Salem on Saturday, an Oregon State Police (OSP) trooper flashed the "okay" hand sign—largely recognized as a racist signal when used by the alt-right—at a right-wing counter-protester. OSP leadership is now claiming the trooper “was simply checking on the man’s status," and was unaware of the racist context of the sign.

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Tear Gas Clouds Fourth of July Demonstrations in Portland

Federal officers on the corner of SW Salmon and 4th, after using tear gas to disperse protesters early Sunday morning.
Federal officers on the corner of SW Salmon and 4th, after using tear gas to disperse protesters early Sunday morning. Alex Zielinski

Instead of its annual fireworks show over the Waterfront Blues Festival, Portland's Fourth of July ended with billowing trash fires set by protesters and plumes of tear gas shot from federal officers dressed in military fatigues.

July 4 marked the 36th consecutive night of large protests in Portland, stemming from the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. While the weeks of protests have featured different leaders and differing protest tactics, their overarching message against police brutality has remained the same. The local police response to these actions has also remained relatively consistent, despite law enforcement leaders experimenting with different crowd dispersal tactics.

Saturday night saw an escalation in the amount of tear gas (also known as CS gas) indiscriminately used on protesters since the start of the demonstrations. This comes despite the passage of a new state law limiting when police can use tear gas and several lawsuits restricting the use of chemical weapons on non-violent protesters.

The evening began in front of the Multnomah County Justice Center—a building that serves as a county courthouse, jail, police station, and the regular gathering spot for the nightly protests. By 10 pm, a crowd of around 500 demonstrators had gathered in the joint park blocks facing the Justice Center and the Hatfield Federal Courthouse, setting off commercial-grade fireworks and snacking on free pizza served by a group of self-identified witches.

After protesters set off several large fireworks directly outside the doors of the federal courthouse, federal officers fired a tear gas canister into the intersection of SW Main and 3rd. Only after this action did Portland Police Bureau (PPB) declare the protest a "riot."

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Two Tuition-Free Preschool Campaigns Are Eyeing the November Ballot. Here's Where They Differ.

Courtesy of Universal Preschool Now

For Portland State University economist Mary King, working on a campaign for tuition-free preschool for all Multnomah County children was an easy choice. King was an early architect of Universal Preschool Now, a campaign to pass a county ballot measure that would fund universal preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds in the county—something she said would be a “real force for equity.”

Data shows that preschool helps kids be better prepared for the rest of their education, and that kids who attend preschool are less likely to be arrested or have substance abuse problems as adults. But preschool can be prohibitively expensive for many families, and more so in Oregon than almost any other state.

“[Preschool access] closes all kinds of gaps for marginalized populations,” King told the Mercury. “It helps kids graduate high school, earn more money, go on to college... People just don’t have access to it because it’s so expensive—it’s as much as rent or a mortgage payment.”

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What Was Accomplished During Oregon's Whirlwind Special Legislative Session?

4kodiak / Getty Images

Blink and you may have missed it: It took less than 72 hours for the Oregon Legislature to begin and end its special legislative session last week.

The whirlwind session was initially planned to address the immediate economic fallout from COVID-19. That focus was expanded, however, after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers sparked statewide protests to improve policy accountability. On June 11, the legislature’s People of Color (POC) caucus asked Gov. Kate Brown to call a special session to address six police reform policies. Five days later, Brown announced plans for a June 24 special session that would jointly address COVID-19 and law enforcement reforms.

Compared to Oregon’s recent legislative sessions, June’s 72-hour, semi-virtual special session was deemed a success for lawmakers’ ability to swiftly pass significant bills with bipartisan support.

At the same time, the pace of the conversations showed an imbalance within the lawmaking process. While lawmakers had months to cobble together COVID-19 relief legislation (the idea of a special session was first pitched in April), they were given two weeks to develop concrete police reforms informed by communities of color. And, with only three days to propose and pass new bills, the process lacked any meaningful public input and fine-tuning expected in a normal legislative cycle.

To Bobbin Singh, director of the Oregon Justice Resource Center (OJRC), the fast-tracking of police reform bills was both a moment of progress and a sign that the “tools of white supremacy” are still at play in Oregon.

“We can’t say, as a state, that we stand against racism and then sustain the same dynamics by not giving the POC caucus or the racial justice community a fair opportunity to be engaged,” said Singh. “It was too on-the-nose in some ways. On the other hand, it was incredibly important to accomplish as much as POC lawmakers did.”

For Oregonians demanding legislative action—in response to both biased policing and COVID-19 constraints—the special session seemed to set the stage for more expansive conversations around the state budget, the looming housing crisis tied to COVID-19 unemployment rates, an opaque law enforcement oversight system, and even several issues unrelated to the session’s two dominating topics.

Those conversations could come quickly, with both a general election and the possibility of two additional special sessions taking place before the end of 2020 (and don’t forget about the state’s regular legislative session scheduled for January 2021).

To keep tabs on where these issues stand now, here’s summary of the notable bills passed by Oregon lawmakers in 2020’s first special legislative session.

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Good Afternoon, News: Oregon's Record-Breaking COVID Spike, Epstein Enabler Arrested, and a Stay-Home July 4th

Happy 4th of July Weekend! (Now stay the fuck at home.)
Happy 4th of July Weekend! (Now stay the fuck at home.) Yauhen Akulich / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Here's your daily roundup of all the latest local and national news. (Like our coverage? Please consider making a recurring contribution to the Mercury to keep it comin'!)

• Oregon had an alarming spike in coronavirus cases since yesterday, gaining a whopping 375 new infections (the current record) and 1 additional death. Umatilla county is in the lead with 88 new cases, followed by Washington (67) and Multnomah counties (64). Reminder that a STATEWIDE face mask rule is in effect, and it applies to EVERYONE, which includes shithead state troopers.

• Restaurant group Toro Bravo (the local empire started by John Gorham) is dissolving following blowback from a Facebook tirade written by Gorham toward a trans woman of color. After many of his staff quit in protest, Gorham had stepped away from the daily running of the eateries such as Toro Bravo and Tasty & Alder, but is now pulling the plug entirely.

• For those wondering where the elk statue that sits between Chapman and Lownsdale Squares ran off to, it's reportedly been taken down by city officials following a fire that was set at its base during last night's protest.

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Seattle Mayor Orders Cops to Sweep CHOP, Protesters Vow to Keep Marching

Theyre back!
They're back! RS

[The following is an article originally published by our sister journalists at The Stranger in Seattle.—eds]

At the direction of Mayor Jenny Durkan, "hundreds" of cops cleared the Capitol Hill Organized Protest area (AKA "CHOP") starting around 5:00 a.m. Wednesday morning.

The officers, many of whom wore "mourning bands" but not state-mandated face coverings, booted homeless people from their tents in Cal Anderson Park and arrested over three dozen people.

Malcolm, who has led several protests in the last few weeks and who said he was near the East Precinct when the cops pushed through, called the police action "messed up."

"They were throwing people out of their tents, pulling them out of their tents, slashing [the tents], throwing the tents everywhere...people have their life savings in those tents," he said.

Throughout the morning, city crews dumped tents into garbage trucks, washed graffiti off buildings, and dismantled (and promised to preserve) plywood art wrapped around cement barricades, bringing an end to the protest camps that had clustered around the precinct since the Seattle Police Department abandoned it on June 8. Protesters worked to protect the building from destruction throughout June, responding quickly to an arson attempt, a window-smashing, and an attempted occupation as SPD limited their response to emergencies within the area.

In a statement, Attorney General Bill Barr commended Seattle Police Department Chief Carmen Best for "restoring the rule of law in Seattle."

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Good Morning, News: Big Jump in Oregon COVID Cases, Cops vs. Face Masks, and Gun-Toting "Karen" Gets Arrested

We need your help. The economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis is threatening our ability to keep producing the quality reporting you've come to love. If you’re able, please consider making a monthly contribution to the Mercury.

Michigan Karen threatens a Black mother and daughter with a gun.
Michigan "Karen" threatens a Black mother and daughter with a gun. Twitter Screen Shot

GOOD MORNING, PORTLAND! Who do you know? Where will you stay? City life is not what they say. LET'S GO TO PRESS.

• On day 34 of protests in Portland, about 200+ protesters showed up at the Justice Center to demonstrate against police brutality—something that was definitely exhibited the night before when cops arrested three journalists and gassed protesters, a North Portland neighborhood, and innocent drivers stuck in traffic against the ruling of a federal court. However, the police were distinctly less violent last night (the bar is low), and our Alex Zielinski who was on the scene reported that the biggest action was protesters tearing down boards from US courthouse windows (and using them as bonfire firewood). Police eventually responded by shooting pepper balls and tracer paint at protesters to get them away from the windows.

• According to the Oregon Health Authority, yesterday the state took a big jump in new coronavirus cases, reporting 281 new infections (that's 100 more since the previous day), and one additional death.

• Gov. Kate Brown issued a tough warning yesterday to those who refuse to wear the state mandated face masks that can help control the state's worrisome surge: Either wear them or face the possibility of re-closing businesses and no school this fall.

• Today in "cops cannot be reformed":

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Good Afternoon, News: Portland Police Defies Court Order with Tear Gas, and Gov. Brown's Stern COVID Warning

Gov. Kate Brown has a stern warning for all those who refuse to wear a mask.
Gov. Kate Brown has a stern warning for all those who refuse to wear a mask. MOTOYA NAKAMURA / MULTNOMAH COUNTY

Here's your daily roundup of all the latest local and national news. (Like our coverage? Please consider making a recurring contribution to the Mercury to keep it comin'!)

• According to the Oregon Health Authority, the state took a big jump in new coronavirus cases, reporting 281 new infections (that's 100 more since yesterday), and one additional death. Related: Gov. Kate Brown's new STATEWIDE face mask mandate kicked off today, and she had a very stark message for Oregonians about what could happen if people do not wear their masks:

“Your actions will determine whether our businesses across the state can stay open,” Brown implored residents during an hour-long news conference. “And your actions will determine, frankly, whether we can open schools in the fall.”

So (all together now...) WASH YA DAMN HANDS, WEAR YA DAMN MASKS!

• Last night marked one of the most senselessly violent police responses in the past month of protests, when cops unleashed SO MUCH tear gas (in direct violation of a federal court order) on mostly peaceful protesters. Three journalists were also arrested for the crime of practicing their First Amendment rights.

• In an unusual move, Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek spoke out against last night's police violence, saying their actions were "completely unacceptable." Read the entire FIRE Facebook post here.

• Related: The Mercury has joined other journalists and the ACLU in filing a temporary restraining order on the Portland Police Bureau to stop targeting, arresting, and harming reporters who are just trying to do their jobs safely. Our editor-in-chief Wm. Steven Humphrey explains why it's so important.

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Don't Shoot PDX Condemns Inaction by City Leaders After Police Tear Gas Protesters

Layers of tear gas rising from the streets of Portland in early June.
Layers of tear gas rising from the streets of Portland in early June. Alex Zielinski

Legal scrutiny is growing against the City of Portland over its officers' excessive use of force against protesters.

Late Tuesday afternoon, lawyers representing Don't Shoot PDX urged a judge to find the City of Portland in contempt of court for violating a recent restraining order prohibiting police officers from shooting tear gas and other munitions at non-violent protesters. The court filing included three days' worth of examples illustrating how officers had violated Don't Shoot PDX's restraining order, which had been approved by U.S District Judge Marco Hernandez in early June.

Hours after Don't Shoot PDX's lawyers filed this request, Portland police officers again indiscriminately fired clouds of tear gas and impact munitions into a group of people protesting police brutality in North Portland. The restraining order specifically prohibits the use of either of these weapons against crowds containing peaceful protesters, unless lives are at risk.

"As you know, excessive force and pepper spray were used against people [last night]," said Teressa Raiford, founder and lead organizer of Don't Shoot PDX, during a Wednesday press call. "We felt that by bringing this lawsuit forward, it would stop this force."

Last night's actions by police showed otherwise.

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Savage Love: Kinked Gays

Joe Newton

I have a question. I’m a gay man in a relationship and we’re both really happy since we met a year ago. We’re “open” in the sense that he wants the option to be intimate with someone else if a connection happens and in turn he said he would be supportive of me being involved in my kinks. But I haven’t done anything yet out of fear. I’m not afraid of my kinks. I’m worried that if I ask to go do something kinky it will ruin our relationship. I don’t think he was bluffing when he said it was okay for me to explore my kinks with other guys but it worries me. I tend to repress the kink part of my sexuality and I’m worried that him knowing I want to act on it will cause issues. My boyfriend and I are so balanced but in the kink aspects of my life I’m a submissive and need to engage in power exchange with someone. I miss being able to express these things and it feels like there’s a void in my life. That might sound silly, but it’s true. I think repressing them is actually taking a toll on my mental health. Any advice?

Guy’s Abandoned Yearnings Subtly Undermining Bond

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Council Votes to Extend Current Police Union Contract Due to COVID-19 Delays

Demonstrators during 2016s PPA negotiations.
Demonstrators during 2016's PPA negotiations. DIRK VANDERHART

Portland City Council has voted to extend its current contract with the Portland Police Association (PPA)—the city's rank-and-file police union—by one year.

The current contract, approved in 2016 was set to expire June 30. But, due to COVID-19's physical distancing restrictions, the city and PPA's bargaining teams were unable to meet to hash out the terms of a new three-year contract in time to meet that deadline. The extension of the contract to June 30, 2021 will essentially grant both sides a do-over in negotiation talks, now set to begin on January 13, 2021.

At a Wednesday City Council session, Mayor Ted Wheeler said this extension will allow for more public involvement in the historically contentious bargaining talks.

"We are more than halfway through the bargaining and would likely only have a couple more public sessions until the end, which would not have allowed for sufficient public participation," said Wheeler. "With this agreement...we will have at least 150 days of bargaining and therefore, a much greater opportunity for necessary public participation."

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A Note from the Mercury’s Editor: Restraining the Police

Mercury Staff

Hey readers 'n' pals!

So a few days ago I was talking with an out-of-town friend who was VERY interested in the ongoing Portland protests, and DOUBLY interested that I occasionally cover them on the ground for the Mercury. They had seen the quick, 10-second videos on TV news that depict Portland streets as war zones, rather than the hours of peaceful chanting from hundreds of protesters.

“Aren’t you scared being out there?” they asked.

“Only of the cops,” I replied.

This info broke their brain a bit. But hey, I get it! It’s hard to suddenly stop seeing the police as a benevolent, protective organization instead of the one that’s slowly transformed itself into a militarized force that no one asked for.

Of the many reporters out in the field during these protests, I’ve been one of the lucky ones. Sure, I’ve been gassed, experienced flash bangs whizzing past my head, and have been told in no uncertain terms by officers that I was not allowed to do a job that is clearly protected by the First Amendment.

However I have not been shoved or slammed into a wall (even after clearly identifying as a member of the press), pepper sprayed directly in the eyes requiring a trip to the hospital, trapped in a cloud of tear gas, arrested for identifying an officer on camera, or beaten with a baton after filming a cop kneeling on a protester’s neck. Those examples (plus many more) all happened to Portland journalists—including Mercury reporters—in the past month.

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Good Morning, News: Portland Police Arrest Three Journalists at Protest; Violate Tear Gas Ban

We need your help. The economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis is threatening our ability to keep producing the quality reporting you've come to love. If you’re able, please consider making a monthly contribution to the Mercury.

Portland Police violated the tear gas ban and arrested three reporters during last nights protest.
Portland Police violated the tear gas ban and arrested three reporters during last night's protest. Tuck Woodstock

GOOD MORNING, PORTLAND! Come on, tell me what you're feeling, use your mouth. If you wanna say something, say it now. LET'S GO TO PRESS.

• At last night's protest in Portland, the response from the cops was particularly violent. After marchers made their way to the police union headquarters on North Lombard, the demonstration was quickly declared "a riot" by the cops (by most accounts it was not) who then fired a LOT of CS tear gas into the crowd in direct violation of a federal court order. Don't Shoot Portland filed papers urging a judge to sanction the city for the cops' flagrant actions. In further disturbing news, the CS gas wafted through the neighborhood, and into the car of at least one innocent bystander who began choking and hyperventilating. Police also arrested three journalists who had the audacity to perform their duties as allowed by the First Amendment, including reporter Cory Elia who was taken in after he identified a police officer by name on camera. (Not against the law, I believe!) Leslie McLam, a reporter for KBOO, was also arrested as well as another independent journalist who tweets under the name Portland Independent Documentarians. Needless to say, the Portland Police, who has already seen significant cuts to their funding and yet are still intent on using overwhelming, unnecessary force against citizens, will have many questions to answer this morning.

• RELATED: The Portland Mercury (hey, that's us!) has joined other local journalists and the ACLU in requesting a temporary restraining order against the Portland Police for their continuous attempts (like last night) to harm and intimidate reporters during the ongoing Portland protests.

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Portland’s Oldest LGBTQ+ Nonprofit Responds to Allegations of Racism and Insensitive Language

Motortion / Getty images

Allegations of bullying, racism, and insensitive language within Oregon’s longest-running LGBTQ+ nonprofit organization have prompted the Portland-based International Sovereign Rose Court (ISRC) to examine its own inclusivity efforts amid the ongoing national uprising against racism.

Tajh Patterson, best known as the drag queen Flawless Shade, told the Mercury she felt discriminated against from before the start of her current reign as Miss Gay Oregon—a title earned at ISRC’s annual drag pageant—and how ISRC’s missteps led to her resignation and reinstatement. Patterson is one of just a handful of Black people to hold ISRC’s Miss Gay Oregon title.

“I’m a brand new, fresh face to the organization, so I thought it would be a way to give back to my community,” Patterson, who uses he/she/they pronouns, told the Mercury. “I learned it was not really all that.”

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