Portland’s rank-and-file police union would like the protests against police brutality to end.
On Sunday afternoon, after more than 50 nights of continuous protests, members of the Portland Police Association (PPA) asked Portlanders for a “moratorium” on demonstrations.
“Our community has had enough,” said PPA President Daryl Turner, speaking to reporters outside the union headquarters in North Portland. “Our officers have had enough. Portland has had enough. This is no longer about George Floyd, this is no longer about racial equity or social justice. If you care about Black lives… the only thing you need to do is make this stop.”
The previous evening, several hundred protesters marched from Peninsula Park to the PPA building, where they protested the PPA’s outsized influence over police accountability policies. Some attendees were there to chant and temporarily block traffic on N Lombard, while others graffitied the building, broke windows, and lit a small fire inside PPA’s reception area. It was extinguished by Portland Police Bureau (PPB) officers on the scene before spreading.
PPB responded to this incident with indiscriminate aggression, using impact munitions, tear gas, and physical force to push all demonstrators out of the neighborhood. Officers were filmed tackling and beating members of the public who had not been accused of a crime.
“Our city is under siege by rioters,” Turner told reporters, including several national correspondents in town to cover the protests.
The destruction to buildings like the graffitied PPA headquarters is why Donald Trump deployed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officers to Portland in early June, with the orders to protect the Mark Hatfield Federal Courthouse in downtown Portland. On Thursday, DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf declared that Portland was “under siege… by a violent mob,” then boarded a plane to Portland. During his whirlwind day trip, Wolf posed for photos in front of graffitied courthouse walls and shook hands with federal police. He also invited Turner to attend a closed-door meeting with other federal law enforcement agencies' representatives, where Turner expressed his interest in PPB collaborating better with DHS in response to protests.
PPB Chief Chuck Lovell and Mayor Ted Wheeler have distanced themselves from the federal officers, with Wheeler telling Wolf that the presence of federal officers in Portland has only escalated the tensions between Portlanders and their police force. On Saturday, PPB announced it would no longer be allowing federal officers into its incident command center during protests—an intentional step made by PPB leadership to disengage with federal agencies. Turner doesn’t agree.
During the Sunday press conference, Turner did not condemn the recent violence inflicted on Portlanders by federal police, nor did he mention the allegations of federal police plucking Portlanders off of sidewalks in unmarked cars and interrogating them. Turner said that he supported the federal agents’ work if they were able to coordinate with the PPB.
Turner was joined by several other Black Portlanders who have long supported PPB, like Antoinette Edwards, the former director of the city’s Office of Youth Violence Intervention, and J.W. Matt Hennessee, a local pastor.
Hennessee said he wanted to “take Portland off the front page” for the nightly violence, seeming to suggest that Portland was only grabbing national headlines for the actions of Portland protesters, and not the federal police. (Hennessee has been a controversial leader in the local Black community, after a 2005 investigation by the Oregonian found he’d admitted to sexually abusing a minor in the ‘90s.)
Hennessee and Edwards said they planned to stand beside PPB officers during these nightly protests to show their support of local law enforcement.
"Not being courageous in leadership is not going to support Portland," said Edwards. "I will stand up, I will be there to have the conversations, like 'What can we do to move this forward, for peace?''
"I welcome conversations, but no more of this," she said, pointing to the graffiti on the PPA building behind her.
Multiple victims of police violence attended the Sunday press conference. Damesha Smith, 27, crossed the street from her nearby apartment to interrupt the event, telling police and the media that she had been repeatedly been tear gas from inside her own home as PPB responded to protests outside the PPA building.
She said she was trying to walk to her house from her car during a protest on July 1, when an officer told her to leave the area.
“I was telling you my address,” Smith shouted towards Turner and other police. “But you beat me with a baton and left me with bruises... and I got charged with assaulting a police officer. All these white people were out here but because I was a Black person, I was arrested.”
According to court documents, Smith was arrested July 1 for attempted assault on a police officer, interference with an officer, and harassment.
Smith said there was still residue from tear gas floating into her home from the Saturday night protest. She said her 8-year-old son has PTSD from being gassed and witnessing officers firing munitions at people from his home.
“Who are you protecting and serving?” Smith asked. “A building, that’s all they care about. It’s bullshit.”
Edwards and another police officer attempted to quiet Smith by giving her their business cards to talk later. “Calm down,” Edwards told Smith.
“It’s hard to calm down,” Smith replied. “I don’t want to calm down right now.”