From one editor to some others, it’s time for you to stand down.
Last night, a day after a protester was set on fire by an allegedly errant Molotov cocktail, the editorial board of The Oregonian – the state’s largest and oldest newspaper – decided to draft and publish an “Opinion” piece urging Portland protesters to end their nightly demonstrations, which have consistently marched toward police strongholds only to be met with varying levels of police-inflicted violence.
In this uninformed opinion, the editorial board exposed their clear bias towards power and authority and revealed themselves, once again, as a communications cabal complicit with inequity, police violence, and injustice. Yet in their request, it was the protesters that the editorial board asked to stand down; as if the very police violence they protest were an obdurate force of nature and not a consciously vengeful reaction by sworn men and women to the fully lucid demand to eliminate their jobs. This Oregonian article is a masterclass in hiding the context, and for that reason, it’s important to review.
In the first full paragraph, the editors immediately began hiding context, framing “the violence” around a pair of shootings that occured 126 miles apart. You’ll notice that the discussion of the first shooting described the victim as “shot dead” and was explained simply as “following skirmishes” while making no mention of the self-defense claim that the shooter made shortly before his murder. His murder, which involved some 40 rounds being fired at a fleeing suspect who had just set the stage to turn himself in by appearing on national news, was described and justified as him being “fatally shot last Thursday by law enforcement officers as they sought to arrest him.” You’ll also notice that the alt-right militiaman killed was noted as “associated with a right-wing group”, while the man killed by police was a “self-proclaimed antifascist active in Black Lives Matter protests,” as if the first man killed wasn’t a part of the incorporated (i.e. state-sanctioned) hate group, Patriot Prayer.
With this fancifully constructed context in play, the editorial staff willfully moved to ignore the centuries of abuse and police violence that US police forces have wrought on Black and brown communities since Reconstruction. They made no mention of Wheeler’s choice to ignore his citizens’ demand for police reform – the platform he ran on! – for three years, let alone his choice to decline even entertaining the ongoing calls to defund the Portland police, which has been the clear focus of these protests since mid-June and remain as such. They spoke nothing of the thousands of names of police victims – Black brown and other – that protesters invoke as they march and hold space.
Instead, the Oregonian’s top dogs – in an embarrassingly unqualified and transparent attempt to speak for Portland citizens – accused the protesters of co-opting their own protests, calling the movement’s goals “muddled” before waving off police abolition and Wheeler’s resignation (both clear and concise demands) as “unproductive”. Apparently “even some the police bureaus fiercest critcs acknowledge a fundamental need for police to exist.” I don’t think the editorial staff has spoken to the police’s fiercest critics if this is the stance they are taking.
In perhaps the most telling statement, they stated that these demonstrations didn’t fit in the Portland tradition of “peaceful protests”, completely ignoring that the Constitution lists the very Justice that protesters are fighting for as a requirement for Peace. No Justice, No Peace is not just a hot bar; it’s a statement based in the American Dream that so many self-described patriots seem to have forgotten. Further, a simple Google search for “violent protests Portland” produces articles written by this very outlet that detail what they describe as violent Portland protests going back to the 1930s. They also seem to ignore the very recent historical context around these violence-enducing alt-right rallies, which, again, is odd because they’ve ostensibly seen the reports.
Instead of discussing how the PPB put the very Jeff Niiya responsible for coordinating with hate groups in charge of the Rapid Response Team and the video evidence of them ignoring right-wing assaults while simultaneously threatening left-wing protesters, journalists and medics with arrests for jay-walking, the editors suggested that counter-protesters should stay away from the rallies held by far-right hate groups, even though it’s been well documented that not responding to these rallies results in attacks on our most vulnerable.
The opinion piece goes on to deride the members of City Hall who refuse to sign unified statements condemning “the voice of the unheard” as MLK called it, specifically Joann Hardesty – the only Black member – who issued a fiery missive this morning herself, noting that “media and non-violent protestors have been indiscriminately beaten, tear gassed, and stripped of their 1st amendment rights by Portland Police and there has been no justice.” I can only assume this came in response to the personal criticism, and I can only hope that Joann stands behind the call for justice that she invoked.
It’s clear to me that the Oregonian’s editorial staff wrote this horrible editorial from a place of willful ignorance. Backing down from a budget request because the liberal Mayor can’t control his right-wing police force is not an option. Backing down because our Democrat Governor and her police are partnering with Trump’s federal police to override our duly elected DA is not an option. Backing down because the police and the alt-right are the same people is not an option.
To borrow the words from Destiny Houston, we’ll stop protesting when we have “change we can feel in our Black bodies.” Don’t ever fix your pens to tell us what Black Lives Matter means. You can try to hide behind the “Editorial Staff”, but we can see you. Get with it or get out the way. The future is coming. We’re in the winning phase and your narrative doesn’t matter anymore.
Mac Smiff, Editor