‘Enough is enough’ | Police chief says Portlanders are tired of violence, at protests and elsewhere
“Portlanders need to send a strong message that enough is enough,” said Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell.
Police chief wants community help on violence
Author: KGW Staff
Published: 9:15 AM PDT August 5, 2020
Updated: 6:37 PM PDT August 5, 2020
PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell lamented the destruction and criminal activity happening downtown during a meeting with the media on Wednesday morning, and he said the recently defunded Gun Violence Reduction Team should come back.
Protesters have gathered in downtown Portland each night for nearly 10 weeks since the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who was killed during an arrest in Minneapolis when a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly 8 minutes.
Portland’s protests and rallies against systemic racism and police brutality have mostly been peaceful, with thousands of people gathering in downtown Portland to chant, listen to speakers and call for change.
“There have been some really large peaceful protests where people have come out, listened to and given speeches, marched to different parts of the city, and that has required zero police engagement,” Lovell said.
Lovell said there’s a small group of people at the protests dedicated to destroying property and provoking a response from police. Those crowds have gathered late each night outside the Justice Center, federal courthouse, and Portland police precinct and union buildings. They’ve smashed windows, lit fires, and thrown objects at officers, including fireworks, rocks and bricks.
Wednesday night on North Lombard Street, a spectacular scene played out around 11:15 p.m. A large pickup drove down the middle of the street while demonstrators were on either side, and the truck was pushing an empty motorcycle under its front end.
Sparks sprayed out from under the truck and lit up the area. The driver was later stopped, cooperated with police and was not arrested. It came during another night of protests focused on the police union offices in North Portland.
Police arrested three people and said the night included people breaking into the union offices and setting fires along with rocks and bricks thrown at officers trying to break up the crowd.
“I’ve never seen a summer like this,” said Chief Lovell.
Police have arrested more than 400 people since violent demonstrations started more than two months ago.
He said the actions of those people are taking away from the larger Black Lives Matter movement, which he said is powerful and important.
“Portlanders need to send a strong message that enough is enough,” Lovell said. “This is not forwarding the goals that are going to lead to better outcomes for people of color. This movement is really powerful, but the violence has taken away from it. … This is not what Portland is about. This is not what we need in our city.”
The chief also said that directing so many officers to the downtown protests takes away from the work police need to be doing, especially as the city has seen a large increase in homicides and shootings in the past month. Police said Wednesday that there were 99 shootings in Portland last month, up from 35 in July last year.
“Redirecting officers to crowd control at protests leaves very few cars in the precincts to answer 911 calls. Sometimes just two or three cars,” Lovell said. “That’s the real issue.”
Lovell recently wrote an op-ed that was published in the New York Times. In the editorial, the chief touched on his concerns that weeks of unrest have drowned out voices that must be heard to make positive change.
In the op-ed, Lovell wrote that the Portland Police Bureau is a progressive agency that’s made significant changes to policies and training, and he called for an end to violence and pledged to be a leader in police reform.
“There was a need to talk about the nightly violence, but also the peaceful protests,” Lovell said when asked why he penned the op-ed. “I wanted to represent our city in a fair manner from a police chief’s point of view. I wanted to be helpful. The reputation we were starting to get nationally was kind of troubling.”
Peaceful protests and community pressure led to city council defunding Portland police by $15 million in June. Funding was cut for the GVRT, which many believed was racist because it stopped more Black people than anyone else.
Chief Lovell said the narrative is wrong and that the unit was not racist.
“I disagree with that, the stops data,” he said. “The numbers are the numbers, but I think if you look at major cities that do that type of work, the numbers are similar.”
The bureau released numbers Wednesday showing July had 99 shooting incidents this year, compared to 35 for July of 2019.
Lovell said that a majority of the shooting victims in Portland are Black. In the shootings last month, Black people made up 66% of the victims.
The chief said he hopes the specialized GVRT returns, because it worked and the community wanted it.
“The stops have gotten a lot of attention,” Chief Lovell said. “But a lot of those stops end with handshakes and conversation. And there’s a real familiarity and people miss it. We hear from a lot of people in the community saying hey we need the Gun Violence Reduction Team back. We need these officers that know our community, that know this issue of gun violence, that we really relied on to help stay safe.”
Author: KGW Staff
Published: 8:48 PM PDT August 5, 2020
Updated: 5:54 AM PDT August 6, 2020
PORTLAND, Ore — Demonstrators again gathered Wednesday night to protest police brutality and systemic racism. This is the 10th straight week protests have gone on in Portland following the killing of George Floyd.
Protesters were out in two groups Wednesday night. One gathered in downtown Portland outside the Justice Center and the other in Southeast Portland at Floyd Light City Park at Southeast 111th Avenue and Alder Street.
The group in Southeast Portland, which police said grew to a couple hundred people, marched to Portland police’s East Precinct. Around 9:30 p.m., police tweeted that “criminal activity” was occurring at the Precinct but did not specify. They asked that peaceful protesters leave.
In a press release sent out early Thursday morning, police said people in the crowd were shining green lasers and other lights at officers. Another person tried to remove the surveillance camera from the front doors of the East Precinct, police said, while others spray painted the camera and the doors of the precinct.
Journalist Garrison Davis reported that some plywood that was covering the front doors had been removed and that a board was being used as a battering ram. Police said others slammed heavy large objects, including large rocks into the glass doors of the East Precinct.
Things seemed to escalate quickly. Police declared an unlawful assembly at 9:45 p.m. At 9:50 p.m., police say people attacking the glass doors of the East Precinct cracked the doors. At 10 p.m. Portland police declared a riot. Protesters were told that they would be subject to crowd control agents if they did not leave.
Even as warnings were announced to protesters, some tried to break through a glass door at the building, Sergio Olmos reported. Police said other people in the crowd threw fireworks and other items at officers.
As police worked to disperse the crowd, around 10:10 p.m. tear gas was used. In the press release sent out by police early Thursday, police said they used tear gas and other crowd control munitions “because of life safety issues created by members in the group.”
The crowd reformed about a block away, according to independent journalists at the scene. Police said that while officers were dispersing the crowd, a truck tried to run over several officers.
Around 10:20 p.m., Garrison Davis reported that protesters threw eggs at officers and police responded by charging and tackling people in the crowd.
Near that same time, Portland police tweeted that they believed an “explosive device” had been left outside the East Precinct. They closed the area of Southeast Washington to Southeast Cherry Blossom Street on Southeast 106th Avenue. They also closed Floyd Light Middle School and the East Portland Community Center. Police said Thursday morning that the device was later found not to be an explosive.
Around 10:30 p.m., police rushed into a crowd and made an arrest, according to Sergio Olmos. Police said several people in the crowd threw “heavy rocks the size of shot puts” at police, hitting several officers. At this time, police said they took several people into custody.
At 11:20 p.m., some in the crowd threw balloons full of paint at officers.
Police continued to disperse the crowd for the next two hours, only to have the crowd regroup and return to the area of the East Precinct. By 1:30 a.m., police said most of the crowd had left the area.
Late on Tuesday night, a truck drove through a barricade and into a crowd of people in North Portland. Video showed that a bike got stuck underneath the truck as it sped away, emitting sparks. Police said nobody was hit by the truck.
Later that night, during the early morning hours of Wednesday, a riot was declared outside the Portland Police Association building in North Portland and three people were arrested after protesters broke into the union headquarters and set a fire inside the building.