Letter from an Occupied City

Line of Portland Police Bureau https://twitter.com/PortlandDSA/status/1282949683346726913/photo/1

To all the cities, movements, rebellions, DSA chapters, and individuals who have shown our city solidarity and support, directly or indirectly, we send our love, our gratitude, and our hope for a new future much different from this present world. We will never forget how you have aided us while you yourselves are fighting against brutal local police forces.

Robert Evans: “Update: a Portland sheriff’s deputy just threatened Garrison and I, telling us (while we were already a safe distance behind him) “if you get any closer than this I’m going to pepper spray you.” His colleagues than came up BEHIND another journalist and pepper sprayed him”

We have seen the violence across the United States ramp up in your cities, where you have sustained continued protest against police murders of Black friends and family. We have seen local police, whether in cities controlled by Republicans or Democrats, brutally crack down on any mass demonstration of protest against the police. They have assaulted you violently, weaponized criminal charges against you, intimidated you through pre-emptive arrests, and have shown themselves to be lawless, unaccountable, and irredeemable. We send you our solidarity and will never leave you to fight alone.

We will never forget how you have aided us while you yourselves are fighting against brutal local police forces.

You may have heard of a “withdrawal” of Federal officers from Portland streets, and that this means the end of the occupation of our city. We do not believe that Federal officers are truly gone, nor do we believe the new collaboration between Portland Police, Multnomah County Sheriffs, Oregon State Police, and Federal “advisors” is a better situation or worth celebrating. We are still being occupied by violent police forces that beat us for protesting and intimidate us into complacence. They are now simply under the control of Democratic Mayor Ted Wheeler and Governor Kate Brown. That the governor would call her plan for cooperation between state police and the Feds a “withdrawal” shows the opportunism and cowardice of our local liberal leadership. Governor Brown, in negotiating with the Trump administration, has aligned her police forces with them and legitimized the occupation. Although Federal forces have been quiet for the last few days, we have not seen a decrease in violent policing. This occupation is not over. If anything, it has simply shifted hands.

@shane_burley1 “Tonight was the most brutal treatment that the police have given protesters that I have seen, beating people who were running away, attacking journalists, savagely and cruely mocking people too hurt to escape. At it was Portland Police, not the feds. @tedwheeler what will you do?”

The US, whether through local or Federal forces, is using Portland to implement the next phase of its emboldened and newly domesticated imperialism. This country has tested these tactics for years against undocumented immigrants through ICE raids and against Native Nations as they did at Standing Rock. This nationalist and racist terror apparatus is not the work of one singular administration, but has been perfected through decades of capitulation to and worship of Capital, approved and enacted by the bipartisan agreement of our illegitimate state. It’s now being disseminated through collaborations between the Feds and our local and state police.

We have clearly threatened the Empire. We are in this place because we have disturbed order. As we have chanted in the streets, where there is no justice, there will be no peace. And this Empire relies on a magnitude of injustice. The Imperialist Colonizer government of the United States has profited greatly off the super exploitation of Black and brown labor, and it is content to spend whatever portion of its hoarded wealth is needed to thoroughly subjugate Black and brown people through the violence of policing. Because the police across this country and in this city murder our Black friends and family and neighbors in order to repress and terrorize Black communities, we have resisted and rebelled. We are suffering the consequences and we are doing so willingly because we know we are right. Only the full abolition of the police in the United States will end this violence.

Video from Portland Independent Documentarians with this description: “PPB executed a short bullrush knocking several protesters over and macing at least one person.” This video was retweeted by Tuck Woodstock saying: “Mayor Ted Wheeler was recently quoted as saying that federal officers “brought a new kind of fear” to the city streets. These are the city streets tonight as Portland police bullrush and mace participants at a police brutality protest.”

That the United States is mortally challenged by a Black uprising to end police violence should say everything about its existential need to maintain racial violence. It wants to continue to murder Black people with impunity. It has brought its soldiers of war back from foreign lands to enforce its dominion on an unruly mass. It has imported its own colonial violence to avoid ever being held accountable for its crimes.

For three weeks we could palpably feel the pressure of the Empire crumbling above us. The dread of new violence loomed each day. When Federal forces were still in charge, we heard the sounds of helicopters ring through our city all night long. We heard the flashbangs from 50 blocks away. We smelled chlorine in the air miles away on the eastside of the river. We still don’t know what gases were being used at night, or their long-term consequences. (Federal officers collected munitions from the street and commanded the press at gunpoint not to touch any casings on the ground.) Spy planes were circling our city and gathering our cell phone data.

We hope that this desperate attempt by the state to suppress the will of the working class does not happen in your city. But if it does, and where it has, we ask that you reach out to us as a resource.

Those of us who visited the protest zone were poisoned, with unknown long-term effects. Many were beaten or hit by munitions. Dozens were arrested, and were sometimes held for days at a time. They were abused and threatened by both local and federal police, forced to sign a document that legally bars them from protesting, and were often let out of jail into a cloud of tear gas with no shoes, no money, no mask and no phone. Yet thousands of people continued to come out and are still resisting. The people of the city of Portland — the beaten down, the exploited, the oppressed — are still coming out. We have created phalanxes of newly radicalized people who are coming out: in defense of Black lives, to oppose police violence, and demanding that we defund, dismantle, and abolish the police.

If it is not yet clear to the world, capitalism is in decay. It is happening more rapidly than we thought. We do not have the ability to predict the future, but we can imagine some potential outcomes. It is time for us to think about how we want to build that other world we’re always talking about.

Garrison Davis: “The police charge toward a bicycle with a headlight and beat up multiple people.”

The movement in Portland, led by Black femmes and the houseless, and supported directly by tens of thousands of Portlanders, has already begun to show us the way. We have seen massive growth in decentralized and autonomous community care efforts unlike our city has ever seen. Care during protests comes in the form of protest medics, onsite clergy, free food, and courageous people with leaf blowers. We are seeing people coming together to provide food, water, and a ride home to protesters released from jail. Our community is providing legal support, supplies, trainings, and an abundance of emotional labor. In order to fight this hard and this long, we have learned very quickly that we need to take care of each other. Occupation is physically exhausting and emotionally draining. We are learning as we go.

We are seeing people spontaneously respond to the weapons of an invading army. We have seen mobilizations of restaurant workers, the unemployed, labor unions, moms and dads. We have stood shoulder to shoulder with comrades and trusted each other to keep ourselves safe. We have seen a community grow in front of us. And we have begun to collectively imagine what we do next.

Sarah Mirk illustration of a person playing the drum and another dancing: “When someone in the future asks what happened in 2020, I’ll tell them I once saw people dancing in the street in gas masks.”

We are grateful to everyone who has shared their solidarity, their resources, and their encouragement with us. We are struggling but we are not defeated. We encourage other DSA chapters to signal boost what’s happening in Portland. We will continue the work of assessing what is happening here and we will share that assessment with you. We hope that this desperate attempt by the state to suppress the will of the working class does not happen in your city. But if it does, and where it has, we ask that you reach out to us as a resource. The best defense against a hostile state is organizing. If you find yourselves in our situation, we know that you will be able to respond inventively and enthusiastically. We will support you as you have supported us. And together, we will win.

Donation links:


Contact: Laura Wadlin, 503–332–7236
Location: Beaverton City Library, 12375 SW 5th St, Beaverton, OR 97005
Time: Monday August 3, 6:30pm

[Beaverton, OR, August 3, 2020] Portland DSA will demonstrate alongside students, parents, educators, and union members across the country on August 3rd, 2020, demanding a safe, scientific, racially just and publicly-funded approach to supporting our schools and the communities that rely on them during COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic, the resulting economic plunge, and the violent policing of the uprisings for Black liberation have once again laid bare the brutality of capitalism. Tens of millions of Americans face mass hardship if Congress chooses not to extend the $600 per week additional unemployment benefits that are set to expire this week. Our city and federal governments have engaged in fascistic suppression of the rebellion against police brutality and have begun using the pandemic as an opportunity to sabotage and privatize our public institutions, from the postal service to our schools. As in all such power-grabs of the investor class, it is Black, Indigenous, and POC communities who face the worst of the violence and dehumanization that fuel exploitation on such a grand scale.

While the federal government has left students, the unemployed, and the working class to flounder in precarity, Governor Kate Brown is also failing to meet the moment. Rather than fighting for economic justice by supporting our most vulnerable residents, she declared on July 31st that she is calling a special session on August 10th to “tighten belts in state government” in order to meet budget deficits. We reject this outdated model of perpetual cuts and scarcity and instead demand the Governorincrease investment to fund education, addiction and social services, housing, and state jobs. We know that student welfare is community welfare, and budget cuts in these areas hurt students, their families, and their communities.

As a chapter, we uplift the demands of Oregon for a Safe Return to Campus, Oregon Public Employees United and Demand Safety in Our Schools and commit to working to make them our reality. We demand:

  • Equitable access to online learning, including free, universal public broadband
  • A moratorium on evictions and foreclosures to support our communities and families
  • Direct cash assistance to those not able to work or who are unemployed, and other critical social supports
  • Adequate and equitable funding, through federal stimulus
  • Moratorium on new charter or voucher programs and standardized testing
  • No reopening until the scientific data supports it (In Oregon, no in-person schooling until there are no new cases in the county and surrounding counties for 14 days)
  • No cuts to state jobs, social services, or education, instead increasing investment in these vital resources
  • When reopening: Safe conditions including lower class sizes, PPE, cleaning, testing, and other key protocols; Police-free schools; adequate numbers of counselors and nurses and community/parent outreach workers

Join us on Monday, August 3rd at 6:30 pm at the Beaverton Library to say NO to austerity! #TaxtheRich #NoORAusterity #FundSchoolsFundHomes

Resolution for DSA Portland to reaffirm our solidarity with the Filipino people against Duterte by endorsing the Philippine Human Rights Act

(Source: Reuters)

DSA National Political Committee Statement, December 2019:

“Democratic Socialists of America calls on the U.S. government to immediately cease all funding and related support to the Duterte administration and the Philippine military and police…Finally, DSA calls on its members to support peaceful resistance to the Duterte administration, through their local chapters and in solidarity with Filipino and Filipina comrades living in the U.S. and the Philippines.”

Philippine Human Rights Act summary, Spring 2020:

“To suspend United States aid to the Philippine military and police until such time that an audit finds that no U.S. funds or equipment have been used to kill or commit human rights violations.”

The Legislative struggle against the role of US imperialism in the Philippines under Duterte has brought forward a strong and winnable bill.

The campaign for the PHRA comes from the convergence of two factors. Duterte’s actions are flagrant and have attracted condemnation from around the world. The opposition to him is strong and growing; Duterte is the number one recruiter for the movements for genuine independence, democracy, just peace, and socialism in the Philippines that long predate his presidency. It’s these movements of workers, peasants, youth, indigenous peoples, and professionals that persevere through multiple martial law declarations and oust dictators.

The worsening conditions in the Philippines right now make our solidarity urgent:

  • Duterte’s shutdown of Philippines’ largest news network ABS-CBN, leaving thousands of people laid off and millions of Filipino Americans without a reliable news source.
  • The “Mass arresting, not mass testing” response of Duterte to COVID-19.
  • The Anti Terror Law which encapsulates Duterte’s escalating threats to formally declare nationwide martial law and become an open dictator like his idol Marcos.

To reaffirm our solidarity with the Filipino people against Duterte. We stand with them against his fascism, and his McCarthyist red-tagging designed to put down the opposition and people. Therefore, as DSA Portland we:

  1. Become an official endorser for the PHRA, convened by Malaya Movement, Kabataan Alliance, and ICHRP, by donating $100 and joining local lobbying efforts, as our organizational capacity allows. 
    Locally, there is a committee working on two main tasks — building relationships with the offices of legislators, and building the coalition as a mass movement. Becoming an official endorser of this campaign would allow DSA to join, influence and strengthen this work.
  2. Call for other DSA chapters, the International Committee, and the DSA NPC to also endorse and join in the work of passing the PHRA.
  3. Call directly on legislative representatives to introduce and/or cosponsor the PHRA. We have influence over people like AOC, Sander, Omar, etc., and we want them to take leadership on this important issue.

Reference: Organizers have created a toolkit of resources to help with organizing around the Philippine Human Rights Act & the campaign to Stop Arms Sales to Duterte. The toolkit includes campaign endorsement request letter, campaign memo, and a “1 pager” on the PHRA.

Liberalism and Fascism in the Streets of Portland

protesters in teargas on the streets
Photo by Beth Nakamura https://twitter.com/bethnakamura/status/1284018606347448322/photo/1

49 days of protesting the police murder of George Floyd as well as countless other Black individuals, including 17-year old Quanice Hayes, Keaton Otis, Terrell Johnson, Andre Gladen, Kendra James, Patrick Kimmons by the Portland Police, has resulted in senseless targeting and violence from the neo-fascist regime in the white house. The world watches as a camouflaged federal officer shoots an innocent man holding a boombox over his head while standing across from a graffitied courthouse. Graffiti which is listed in a federal document released today, listing those responsible as “violent anarchists”

As federal troops mobilized in the streets of Portland, July 16th, 2020, the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) gleefully forwarded photos on Twitter of their own work earlier that morning. They had successfully dismantled and arrested the operators of “Riot Ribs,” the free food collective that was operating outside the Federal Courthouse. Riot Ribs had been feeding protestors and houseless people 24 hours a day and was financed entirely by donations. The photos of their sweep and arrest are a testament to what modern policing looks like in the Trump era. In the photos of “evidence” of this “illegal occupation” of the park can be seen a dozen coolers, a grill, a makeshift kitchen, several tents, and a trash bag full of sleeping bags. You can see the remnants of a small community. No weapons, just food. This is what the police photographed as evidence of a threat.

Caption: Photos from Lownsdale and Chapman Square Parks today. Photo 1: empty fountain with graffiti on it and smoke coming from near it. Picture 2: a canopy set up with a line of large coolers, water, kitchen and cooking suppliers. Picture 3: the other side of the canopy showing artwork, stacks of water bottles, barbeque grills and other supplies. Picture 4: a statue with posters wheat-pasted to the bottom of it.

Riot Ribs has been run largely by houseless people who have now lost their sleeping bags and tents. Yet they are back at it again. Last night, July 16th, less than 20 hours after being arrested and having their possessions stolen by the police, Riot Ribs returned to continue feeding the community of protesters.

Picture: a moving truck stacked to the top with full, large, clear bags

It is obvious why the Portland Police and the Department of Homeland Security are threatened by direct action like Riot Ribs. Projects focused on community care do what the liberals of our city could never do: provide food to those most in need, and enable them to challenge the system. Just as the FBI was threatened by the Black Panthers’ free breakfast programs, our authoritarian state cannot allow for Riot Ribs or any alternative models of community care. The existence of Riot Ribs speaks too clearly to the injustices of our capitalist state. We know the capitalist state cannot save us, because it is what brought us to this point. We the people must care for each other: through community food programs like Riot Ribs or through jail support and bail funds. These symbiotic acts of care for one another stand in stark relief to the millions and billions poured by our liberal governments into financing the police, which is in turn used to brutalize and repress.

Video of federal agents swinging a censer emitting tear gas in downtown Portland.

To be clear: Federal agents have been cooperating with the Portland Police for roughly two weeks. Yet the brutality of the PPB against our city, in this uprising, has been going for 49 days. The police, our sacred purveyors of harm, have been built on a culture of aggression and authority. They are revered by the middle and upper class for policing the lower classes to preserve a crumbling oligarchy. The only people in our society that we allow to murder, the cops, are the ones we have made responsible for managing all of the problems in our society. When protesters broke windows downtown on May 29, Wheeler scolded the city with an all-caps ENOUGH. But when human lives were threatened by his officers’ use of force — when legal observers were targeted or when bystanders were pulled from their cars into the gas — Wheeler stood by. Wheeler’s police exist to serve capitalists and protect property, and the cost is our safety. The PPB has had its budget increased every year for a decade, up until the events of this uprising. Ted Wheeler ran for mayor to end the militarization of the Portland Police. He has done nothing to end it. And now we see a tank prepared to roll down the streets of our city.

Picture of a tank being transported on a flatbed truck parked on a Portland street. Tweet reads: “My friend just sent me this pic that’s across the Portland Bureau of Transportation. Wonder what it’s for.”

The Portland Police and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are now collaborating to suppress the speech and actions of the people of Portland, to make an example of Portland to our cruel and monomaniacal President. Our feckless liberal mayor uses one hand to offer up mealy mouthed objections to “violence” on twitter, while with the other he waves his officers on to livestream protestors’ faces so that Federal Officers can target them with arrest. He has allowed DHS to brutalize the residents of Portland. He has overseen a 49-day counter-insurgency program of his own, operated by the unaccountable Portland Police Bureau, financed by tax dollars, and supported politically by the corporate business alliances in this city. Ted Wheeler can claim that it is the Feds that have brought violence to our city, while he is the police commissioner and has the blood of brutalized protesters on his hands.

Now is not the time to see the challenges in front of us as too grave or too difficult. Now is the time to find courage.

It is easy for Kate Brown and Ted Wheeler to point the finger at the Feds or at Donald Trump, as the aggressors here. They believe that they have done all they can to reform the police (by holding countless committees and making many oversight bodies that never come close to changing the police). Kate Brown and Ted Wheeler will continue to assert that their own actions had nothing to do with this current situation. But their willingness to protect property and capital, coupled with their unwillingness to imagine a system sustained by care rather than harm, by community mutual support rather than violent repression, is what has brought us to this place. Kate Brown could harness the National Guard to protect protesters, or motivate the legislature to neuter police power in our state. But she will not do these things. Ted Wheeler could attempt to order the Portland Police to stop cooperating with the Feds, and to begin restoring our society rather than brutalize our people. But he will not do that either.

Street medics have been aimed at and shot. In a video shot the night of July 11, US troops are seen pushing and beating medics tending to a hurt person lying prone on the ground, they physically push the medics back and when they stumble, the soldiers beat the medics and the ground around them for sport.

Who can make a change? Our city council and our county commissioners and our state legislature and our governor can defund the police. They have the power to write law, to end cop unions, to defund. But when Black lives are murdered by police, they are the ones proposing paltry reforms. They are the ones ignoring the federal government’s creeping authoritarianism. They are the ones maintaining the integrity of the system. They are the ones blaming Trump, and not the entire imperialist system which has forever used violence to exploit and repress. Donald Trump is using all the weapons and tools and armies made available to him by the United States. That federally trained soldiers accustomed to policing political revolt or implementing regime change in foreign countries are now policing the people of the imperial core is surprising only to a liberal. Immigrant and refugee communities in our city can clearly see that what we have wrought in other countries is now becoming the standard operating procedure inside this country as well.

Tweet reads: “So here’s the video, from TeebsGaming on http://twitch.tv , of an officer smacking the phone from a protester’s hand into the window of the PPA building. And the broken window is what they then used as their reason to declare a ‘riot’ and gas people.”

What must be done? Now is not the time to see the challenges in front of us as too grave or too difficult. Now is the time to find courage. There are many communities of care that operate in our city, supporting the movement, fighting for change. Snack Bloc, the GDC Bail Fund, Free Lunch Collective, the local Witches, Riot Ribs, Portland People’s Outreach Project, PDX Jail Support, and our own Mutual Aid Fund, all of these are opportunities for you to join in caring for this movement. Or perhaps there is a need somewhere else, and you and your friends and neighbors can build it yourselves. Now is the time to build new structures that make care central to the work of building a new world.

Perhaps you are already a member of an organization that could help in this fight. You are a member of a collective, a union, a co-op. Find the ways to use your power to defend those who need it. Stand up for Black Lives. Fight for the better world you yearn for. This will only be won if we continue to fight, and learn from every moment how to fight better, more justly, listening to the most marginalized among us. When the people stand united, they can never be defeated.