Volunteer-based mutual aid kitchen Riot Ribs has been serving free meals at Southwest 4th and Salmon (the center of many Portland protests) since July 4. Since then they've expanded their operation to offer clothes, medical supplies, and safety equipment to whoever needs it. Everything they’re offering comes from donations—either dropped off or purchased with crowdsourced funds. The collective, made up of houseless folks, BIPOC, and trans individuals, continue to feed anyone and everyone 24/7 even after being repeatedly assaulted by PPB and federal officers.
During the day the smoke coming from Riot Ribs’ grills is a sharp contrast to the clouds of tear gas from the previous night. There’s something comforting about inhaling the smoky scent, knowing it isn’t the spicy air we’ve come to expect from federal officers every evening.
Riot Ribs runs on donations, and seeing their piles of coolers, bottled water, and other goods growing ever larger is delightful. The operation runs without electricity or water—and if this isn’t a testimony to mutual aid, I don’t know what is.
I'm also thrilled that vegan options and a dedicated veggie grill are also available. When they say “feeding everybody and anybody,” they mean it.
At night, the tent glows with a different energy. During the day, they’re primarily feeding houseless folks, while in the evening, it’s everyone. This obviously isn’t about me, but I get emotional over how this community continues to show up for each other night after night.
Protestors fuel up, grabbing snacks and drinks. Water bottles are especially handy for flushing eyes when the tear gas comes. A wholesome activity is watching folks walk by, wide-eyed at the abundance.
When federal officers fire the first flash bangs of the evening, the folks at Riot Ribs don’t flinch. And when tear gas is deployed, volunteers carry on with a "business as usual" attitude as some protestors retreat from the federal courthouse to get away from the fumes.
The thick tear gas temporarily drives away the line of people waiting for a plate of food. Riot Ribs volunteers remain at their stations, taking a momentary break to put on gas masks and goggles.
Less than ten minutes after the first wave of tear gas, and the lines of people are back. Riot Ribs returns to service. On more than one occasion, federal officers have assaulted Riot Ribs volunteers with munitions, and yet they keep on going. As they wrote in a July 20 tweet, “Cooking ribs with broken ribs.”
Hours after taking my last photos for this piece, federal officers raided Riot Ribs’ station, breaking tables and pepper spraying all the items that were left over, including medical supplies and the inside of grills. They're already back up and running, but can always use more donations so they can continue feeding the people. Check the FAQ page to find out what they regularly need. Donate via CashApp $riotribs, Venmo @riotribs, or drop off donations in person at SW 4th and Salmon.
Celeste Noche is a documentary and editorial photographer. Find her work at @extracelestial on Instagram and Twitter.