- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 16, 2021

A coalition of elected Democratic officials, law enforcement officers and Black community leaders in Portland, Oregon, on Monday condemned violence and vandalism by “anarchists” who have plagued the city for nearly 10 months.

While the officials and community leaders said they have had enough, they did not announce any action or new policies to crack down on the rioting.

Instead, they accused anarchists of hijacking the Black Lives Matter movement to cause senseless destruction throughout the city. Rioters smash the windows of businesses, tag buildings with graffiti, assault police, set fires and threaten residents nearly every night.

Former Oregon state Sen. Avel Gordly, a Black woman and a Democrat, said the anarchists “intentionally create mayhem through criminally destructive behavior.”

“You are not helping. You are hurting Black people. We need peacemakers and peacekeepers,” she said during a video press conference.

Portland became the center of civil unrest during last summer’s protests over the high-profile deaths of Black people during encounters with the police. While demonstrations broke out in major cities across the country, most of them petered out after a few weeks.

Portland’s rioters, meanwhile, targeted a federal courthouse by smashing windows and setting it on fire last fall.

The mayhem appeared to be abating this year but surged last week with protesters again attacking the courthouse, where federal offices are stationed. A protective fence surrounding the courthouse was removed this month, only to have it reinstalled last week.

The Justice Department spent more than $1.5 million to repair damage to the courthouse, according to The Oregonian.

“The community is sick and tired of people engaging in criminal destruction and violence and doing it under the guise of some noble cause,” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, a Democrat, said at the press conference.

“The community at large has already figured out that this has nothing to do with Black Lives Matter or any noble causes. This is just about people getting together to break stuff because they think they can get away with it.”

On Thursday, vandals broke windows of downtown businesses, tagging them with anti-government and anti-police graffiti. The next day, more than 100 people marched through the city’s Pearl District smashing windows and using tables and chairs from outdoor restaurants to block the street.

When the police responded, protesters threw rocks at officers and one person threw a full beer can. Police discovered several dangerous items left behind, including a crowbar, hammers, bear spray, a slugging weapon with rocks, a high impact slingshot, and knives.

At least 13 individuals have been charged with crimes.

Portland Police confronted the unruly crowd by kettling, a practice in which officers surround and box in a group by blocking off all exit points to make arrests.

 Kettling is a controversial move. Two civil liberties groups brought a class-action lawsuit against Portland in 2017 after police kettled nearly 400 protesters.

A federal judge dismissed the lawsuits, concluding kettling is legal and does not violate suspects’ constitutional rights. That decision is being appealed.

Mr. Wheeler and Mr. Davis defended the decision to kettle the unruly crowd during the press conference.

Portland officials say the agitators are the “self-described anarchist left,” largely made up of young White men.

“I want to be clear this was not a protest group,” said Chris Davis, Portland’s assistant police chief. “This was a group of people who have come to believe that they are entitled to damage other people’s property, threaten community members and assault officers.”

This article is based in part on wire-service reports.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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