Members of Patriot Prayer will return, yet again, to downtown Portland this weekend to protest women who accuse men of sexual abuse or rape. (I know, it's terrible). Rose City Antifa has already organized a counter-protest. Patriot Prayer supporters have called the event "another opportunity to kick some Antifa ass," on the event's Facebook page.
Based on their history alone, its likely the clashing groups will become confrontational, if not violent. In the past, that violence hasn't just come from aggravated protesters—several peaceful protest attendees have been injured by Portland police officers who tossed "flash bang" grenades or shot pepper balls into a crowd.
Time after time, the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) says their decision to deploy those types on munitions come from calls made at the PPB command center—a room where officers, often including PPB Chief Danielle Outlaw, monitor active protests and give direction to officers on the ground.
Reporters have frequently asked PPB to sit in the command center during a protest, but have not been granted permission. Until now. Kind of.
According to Mayor Ted Wheeler's communications director Eileen Park, she and PPB had selected two local journalists—one from the Oregonian and one from the Portland Tribune—who have a history of "fair and balanced" reporting to sit in during this weekend's protest. No other reporters working at those papers were allowed to go in their place, nor were any other media outlets told about this offer.
"In hindsight, I can see how this does not look good," Park told the Mercury." Ideally, we should open this option up to every media outlet."
According to Oregonian Editor Therese Bottomly, the Oregonian refused to adhere to the city's specific conditions—specifically, the condition that allowed the city to choose which Oregonian reporter would cover the protest from the command center.
Park said she rescinded the entire offer to both outlets.
No reporters will join PPB's command center team during Saturday's protest. She says that going forward, the mayor's office will be more transparent about these decisions, and give more journalists an opportunity to report from the PPB command center (not just the ones the mayor's office has ruled "fair and balanced").
"I didn't think it through," said Park.
This gaffe comes a day after a particularly contentious Portland City Council meeting, where Wheeler suggested the press had been responsible for the downfall of his proposed protest ordinance.
Park's offer is a limited, yet clear, step forward in allowing media access to PPB. But will all reporters—especially ones who've been critical about Wheeler's protest tactics—get equal access to the PPB command center? We'll have to wait until the next Patriot Prayer clash to find out.
Update, 5 pm:
Vance Tong, managing editor for the Portland Tribune, sent the Mercury this comment about their involvement:
"Late Wednesday one of our reporters was offered the opportunity to report from the incident command center on Saturday. The offer was declined due to a scheduling conflict."