Tuesday, November 30, 2021

‘Lawless city?’ Worry after Portland police don’t stop crowd from breaking windows, setting fires

PORTLAND – A mob of 100 people wreaked havoc in downtown Portland this week – smashing storefront windows, setting dumpsters on fire and causing at least $500,000 in damage – but police officers didn’t stop them.

Portland Police Bureau officials say that’s because of legislation passed by Oregon lawmakers this year that restricts the tools they can use to sabotage buildings and confront people who may cause havoc.

“The reason we didn’t intervene comes from last month about House Bill 2928 and the restrictions placed on us in a crowd-control environment,” Portland Police Lieutenant Jake Jensen told a neighborhood meeting Thursday. .

Frustrated by the latest round of devastating demonstrations, residents questioned Tuesday whether this means anything in Portland now.

“Does this mean that we are like a chaotic city now?” Linda Witt asked during a meeting with the police. Jensen replied that people may have to face the consequences later.

The law in question is House Bill 2928, which prohibits the use of things like pepper spray and rubber bullets for crowd control. There is an exception though – when the circumstances under which a riot occurs and if the officer using the chemical incapacitate reasonably believes that its use is necessary to prevent and prevent more destructive behavior.

“The law clearly allows Portland police to use the effective tools necessary to control violent mobs,” House Minority Leader Christine Drazen of Oregon told The Associated Press on Friday. “However, activist lawyers are deliberately misinterpreting the law to prevent police from intervening. They have no business endangering law enforcement and community safety.”

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Portland Police Sgt. Kevin Allen told the AP that officials have been made aware of the law’s “potential implications” and are being analyzed by the city’s attorney’s office.

“Until we have some clarity on the bill, we will have to follow its most restrictive interpretation,” Allen said.

Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment Friday. Neither did lawmakers from the Democratic Caucus of the Legislature, which is controlled by the Democratic Party.

Portland has often seen violent protests since the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. Some activists have complained that the police have been harsh in their response.

On Tuesday, police say 35 different locations were targeted – including banks, retail stores, coffee shops and government buildings.

Officials say that although the police did not intervene directly, the officers directed the dispersed over loudspeakers and a mobile field force went inside, at which the crowd dispersed.

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