As we reflect on this week's events in D.C. and ask, “How did we get here?” we must be clear that very few people will wake up one day thinking they can successfully storm the U.S. Capitol. To become that emboldened and radicalized, the far-right had to be given the message that they can do what they want with relative impunity.
Let’s remember that these very same individuals and organizations have been given free rein—and police support—for the last four years to violently invade the city of Portland.
After three Portlanders were stabbed on the MAX by a white supremacist, the Portland police attacked counter protesters while protecting the far-right. These same people have been issued permits, had the Hawthorne bridge closed just for them, received no consequence for bringing loaded firearms to a protest, and were warned by Portland police so that some of their most violent members could avoid arrest—an action in which the city found no wrongdoing.
Following the attack on our nation's capitol building, Portland's city council released a statement saying, "This is beyond unacceptable. It’s disturbing the President would use extreme violence against Black Lives Matter protests while allowing White Supremacists to storm the Capitol so easily. We look forward to a thorough national investigation explaining how this could happen."
That sentiment reeks of hypocrisy coming from Ted Wheeler, who has been using extreme violence against Black Lives Matter all year, and called for increased punishment for antifascists less than a week before the Capitol takeover. There is no mention of how he will do anything differently when these far-right insurgents return—and we must recognize that they are only further emboldened since the 6th.
Ted Wheeler should be wary as he calls for a national investigation. Portland’s city government was one of the first that started rolling out the red carpet for members of the far-right, while ignoring community safety and concern, so that investigation will lead right to the Mayor’s office. He is in no position to point fingers at the Republicans—colluding with white supremacy is a bipartisan problem in this country. As we express disgust at the permissiveness, pandering, and lack of preparation by D.C. officials and police, let’s recognize those same elements here in Portland.
If his outrage is genuine, maybe Tear Gas Teddy should start by looking in the mirror?
Beriah Empie is a local organizer, and has worked in K-12 education throughout Portland for 15 years.