reposted from It’s Going Down
Ted Wheeler’s proposed city ordinance comes after more than a year of far-right street violence enabled and enacted by Patriot Prayer; it has little to do with keeping our community safe, and much more to do with cracking down on community defense against dangerous far-right groups. The idea of “free speech zones,” segregating protesters according to the whims of politically compromised police leadership, has been tried on multiple occasions, and with clearly disturbing results. This city must not, and our community will not, be duped by false “neutrality.”
On June 4, 2017, the Portland Police Bureau confined anti-fascist activists to Chapman Square under threat of arrest. After corralling them, the police attacked these demonstrators using chemical weapons and explosives, driving them into the streets of downtown Portland. The police then formed a kettle around the remaining anti-fascists and numerous members of the media who had also fled, illegally detaining and subsequently searching hundreds of people, photographing their IDs before allowing them to leave. In the year following this clear violation of protesters’ rights, a class action suit was filed against the Portland Police, and yet they still have not publicly established that they have properly disposed of the photos they took of protesters’ identification.
On August 4, 2018, the Portland Police Bureau again trapped anti-fascist community defense groups on numerous downtown streets and sidewalks, under threat of arrest, while giving white nationalist demonstrators free reign on the waterfront and in the streets. Then, after confining the anti-fascist counter-protest on SW Columbia, the police attacked the crowd of over one thousand people with explosives, seriously injuring several. Universally, the media recorded that the police lied about the pretext for their attack. The police then allowed the white nationalists to advance through the streets of downtown and pick off remaining anti-fascists. In one instance, a group of around twenty white nationalists rode around the area on a school bus, jumping out to chase down anyone wearing black.
The Mayor’s proposed “free speech zones” policy should be debunked for what it is: a plan designed to trap anti-fascists so that they can be more easily attacked, maimed, kidnapped, searched, surveilled, arrested, and otherwise deprived of their liberty and health. With this proposed ordinance, the Portland Police Bureau will no doubt again attempt to trap protesting community members, and open fire upon us, as they have repeatedly done in the past. Or perhaps, they will now simply allow white nationalists to open fire on us from above with assault rifles. As was recently revealed, on August 4, Portland Police allowed white nationalists to possess sniper rifles and maintain sniper positions over the anti-fascists cornered below by police. This police-designed setup for a massacre is a ghastly vision of Wheeler’s notion of “free speech.”
This ordinance would serve to even further institutionalize political violence in Portland. Not just the violence of the police upon the people, but the political violence with which white nationalists and fascists seek to transform the status quo. With their actions, the Portland Police Bureau and the mayor have made clear that they consider nationalist and fascist mobs like Patriot Prayer, the Proud Boys, the Hiwaymen, Identity Europa, and the Daily Stormers gathering in public to be a privileged form of political expression. Chief Outlaw’s own statements and actions in guiding the police show that she considers the community – who wants this violent carnival out of our city – to be the problem, while these far-right outsiders are her most valued customers.
Mayor Wheeler, Outlaw’s boss, uses a purported neutrality to condone this service to white nationalists. His proposal ignorantly treats community defense as equal to the attacks of white nationalists. America is currently in the midst of a battle over values. A violent minority wishes to subjugate and threaten the very existence of the majority of people, with the support of the government. Children are being placed in concentration camps, and fascist gangs roam our streets beating and murdering innocent people. There can be no compromise or neutral position against such an ethically bankrupt set of values. By impairing the community’s organizing efforts against such a movement and hiding behind Trump’s “both sides” narrative, the government of Portland continues to clearly choose a side. Rose City Antifa asserts our right to freedom of assembly and speech, as well as our community’s right to defend itself against these mortal threats.
Numerous examples from history, across many time periods and in many places, shows us what happens when violent nationalist gangs operate on the streets with the consent of the government. This is the stated goal of Gibson and the groups which follow him. They openly call for armed civil war, for “cleansing” the streets, and defend the 2017 MAX train murders, and the murder and assault by car committed last year in Charlottesville, as justified “self-defense.” These gangs will hold power over the streets, and decide who can walk freely, and who will be beaten or murdered. And let it be clear: this can only happen with the consent of the political organization in power, when the community is no longer allowed to defend itself.
Anti-fascists in Portland remember the murders of May 2017, committed by a follower of Joey Gibson. We remember the people assaulted by his enforcers on the streets of Vancouver and Portland over the past year and a half. We remember the community members who stood up against these white nationalist gangs to defend the rights and humanity of themselves and their marginalized neighbors, who were given burns, lacerations, and skull fractures by the police in return. We will, regardless of the adoption of this ordinance, continue to defend our community from Patriot Prayer and their Proud Boy accomplices. We will never relent in fighting for a community free of racism, bigotry, homophobia, transphobia, and fascism. The powers that be in this city may wish to rule over a community living in fear of attack by racist gangs, but our community will never allow that sort of political terror to reign, whether it is at the hands of cops or nationalist militias.