On Saturday, June 29, the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) published a tweet accusing left-wing activists of mixing cement into the nearly 800 milkshakes they distributed during a protest held that same day. While PPB has yet to provide any evidence supporting this claim—which quickly proliferated across the internet as fact—the tweet has not been redacted or even clarified by the public agency.
Meanwhile, the group PPB accused of creating cement milkshakes has been fielding death threats and harassment via social media and phone calls.
"This claim, and [the city's] continued refusal to admit culpability in perpetuating dangerous misinformation, is akin to yelling 'fire' in a crowded building," reads a Monday press release by Popular Mobilization, or PopMob, the left-wing group who brought homemade vegan milkshakes to the June 29 protest.
The group is calling on Mayor Wheeler and the PPB to formally retract the tweet and send a "letter of regret released to as broad an audience as the original misinformation reached."
PopMob was one of several leftie groups who showed up in downtown Portland to protest a rally organized by right-wing activists. The clash between both activist groups—and the PPB's attempt to separate them—made national headlines after a conservative writer was punched in the face by people associated with protesters aligned with the local anti-fascist (or, antifa) movement.
This heightened national attention on Portland, paired with PPB's inflammatory tweet, made PopMob an easy target for vicious Twitter trolls.
"You guys all need the gas chamber," reads one tweet sent to PopMob on June 30.
"Come on down to Boise Idaho and try this shit!! You will be greeted with a hollow point bullet in your fucking head!!!" reads another.
"The police have knowingly put our group in danger," said PopMob spokesperson Effie Baum, in an interview with the Mercury. "While it might not have been overtly intentional, the damage is done."
Baum said nobody from the city has reached out to PopMob since the June 29 protest—not even a PPB officer to investigate the cement claim. And PopMob certainly hasn't contacted the police to report the death threats.
"They are clearly not concerned with our safety," they said. "How could we trust them?"
PopMob's mission, according to Baum is to find fun and positive way to inspire engagement in protests that challenge alt-right movements—like adding milkshakes and dance parties to events that have historically turned into violent brawls.
"The media has stigmatized what it means to be anti-fascist," Baum said. "We want to expand that definition."
Baum, who's spent the past months working behind the scenes to coordinate with Portland's many leftie groups, isn't surprised that the PPB chose to weaponize their milkshakes.
"I think the city saw that the left has become more organized and unified, and they saw it as a threat," they said. "The milkshakes symbolized that threat to them."
In Monday's press release, PopMob cites Oregon's public retraction law, which gives the city two weeks to retract and correct their statement.
"While you cannot unring a bell," PopMob writes, "this refusal further damages the public’s eroding trust in their police force and perpetuates an adversarial relationship with the people it claims to protect."
Baum told the Mercury that the PPB and the internet mob they emboldened have done little to stop PopMob's future organizing. They said the group's next event will take place August 17, and adds: "It will be quite the spectacle.”