Portland Off Balance
News coverage of demonstrations and riots currently taking place in Portland, Oregon provide drastically different narratives from what some demonstrators themselves are claiming. For example, NBC News reported:
“Portland residents have gathered every night since late May, after George Floyd died in Minneapolis police custody, to demand justice reform and more control over their police department.”
The NBC News report seems to portray benevolent intentions, categorizing them in basically two groups, the nonviolent group and those who simply want to expel federal agents.
“Meanwhile, frustration has been rising between demonstrators calling for nonviolent action and activists determined to push out federal officers by any means necessary,” reports Alicia Victoria Lozano.
But groups claiming to be the organizers and the energy behind the demonstrations tell a very different story:
“Last night saw one of the largest, most rowdy, and well prepared crowds at the justice center in PDX in over a month. Protesters came out with helmets, shields, goggles, gas masks, medical supplies, laser pointers, spotlights,” read a message posted at the Puget Sound Anarchists website, with a note saying it was a repost from “It’s Going Down” another site that claims to speak for the “revolution.”
According to the group’s stated intentions posted in the “about” space on the website, they want more than police reform:
“It’s Going Down is a digital Community center for anarchist, anti-fascist, autonomous anti-capitalist and anti-colonial movements. Our mission is to provide a resilient platform to publicize and promote revolutionary theory and action.”
At a press conference Tuesday, Richard Cline of the Federal Protective Services said that a crowd of about 1,000 attacked the federal courthouse, busted out windows, and set several fires. Cline also stated that when officers responded to fires set by protesters, “lasers, which can cause permanent blindness, were shined in their eyes.”
American Wire asked Alicia Victoria Lozano, the NBC correspondent, who has covered the events at Portland, for her take on the disparities in the differing accounts. In an email response, Ms. Lozano responded:
“The whole protest site comprises 2-3 city blocks with thousands of people spread out through the area. I saw a handful of people spray-painting the plywood barricade that had been erected around the federal courthouse and I saw fireworks thrown into the air but not who threw them or from where. Of the roughly 2,000 people I understood to be in attendance the other night, maybe a dozen or fewer were involved in vandalism from what I could see.”
Lozano also said she did not see any lasers and that the “vast majority of people were not engaged in any violence or vandalism whatsoever.”
As lines are blurred between what is a “peaceful protest” and a violent assault on government property, news coverage of such events is likely to become more complicated. What has happened in Portland over the past several days may be legitimate protests or asymmetric warfare waged by groups of anarchists. Or it could be both.
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