This weekend, extreme-right groups are planning to rally again in downtown Portland, a development that signals tensions in the city are likely to continue into the Fall.
Throughout the summer, demonstrators in Portland protested in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and in opposition to police violence in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in May. Tensions between demonstrators and law enforcement escalated after the deployment of federal agents to the city, where non-violent protesters were ambushed, arrested, and thrown into vans without explanation.
Since then, leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives have called for an immediate investigation into the use of federal law enforcement at protests against police brutality, and federal troops were ordered to leave Oregon. But the following month, tensions between extremist groups and protesters escalated into armed intimidation at rallies, culminated in deadly gun violence, and kept federal troops in Portland.
As you continue to cover protests in Portland, here are three things to keep top of mind:
- Open carry at protests leads to unsafe conditions and increases the potential for deadly gun violence. Research shows that visible guns “[have] been found to make people more aggressive; therefore open carry makes it more likely that disagreements will turn into violent conflicts.” Armed extremists who have been turning up at protests openly carrying semi-automatic rifles are enabled by the dangerous open carry loophole that 42 states, including Oregon, have yet to close.
- Police violence is gun violence. Each incident of police violence makes it harder to build safer cities and makes communities already fighting against the systemic and structural barriers that lead to racial injustice more at risk for violence. Law enforcement agencies should have strong guardrails on when police may use force against civilians, ensure police are held accountable when force is used and prioritize de-escalation, dignity, and respect. That includes the excessive use of police force against non-violent protesters at rallies.
- The pandemic has exacerbated existing circumstances that contribute to America’s alarming rates of gun violence, particularly in Black and Latino communities. As politicians attempt to blame apparent increases in gun violence in some cities on Black Lives Matter protests and gun safety laws, information debunking these dangerous myths is available here.