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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.

End the Curfew and Stop Police Violence

Protestors marching in Downtown Portland

We in Portland DSA loudly denounce the punitive curfew instituted by Ted Wheeler and the Portland City Council. Curfews are a form of collective punishment on an entire community. This curfew was intended to rebalance power away from protesters and back to the police. The curfew has given police full permission to attack and arrest literally anyone they come across after 8PM, something they did last night.

We call for a total defunding of the police state in Portland.

We know that curfews are unconstitutional, and completely out of touch with this growing movement against police violence. For members of our city council who have long criticized police, it is disappointing to see them reinforcing the brutal and violent “order” that the Portland Police enforce in our streets. It is disappointing that police critics in our city council would believe that moving Portland even further into a dystopian police state is the proper response to an organic and spontaneous movement that is fed up. But the Portland city council’s inability to cancel rent or provide meaningful assistance to its citizens during a global pandemic only contributed to the unrest in our city. It is clear that our elected leaders are not on the side of our movement. Their choices over the weekend have resulted in more police brutality, more arrests, more injury, and more violence. We denounce the city council and its leaders for making such poor choices in this moment.

We call for a total defunding of the police state in Portland. The police in Portland kill Black people and people in mental health crisis every year. The majority of Portland police do not live in our community and have no qualms about hurting our friends and neighbors should they decide to protest. The Portland police do not care about free speech or justice, and have shown countless times over several years that they will use extreme and brutal measures to control us and suppress our movements. We will have a better, healthier, more vibrant community without the Portland police. We can imagine a world without police at all. Our elected leaders do not have such an imagination.

A total defunding of the police can begin by removing cops from schools, from transit, and the removal of all riot gear and tools and the militarized tactics used. A defunding of police can include not renewing the police union contract and refusing to negotiate a new one. A defunding of the police could start by reducing the force by 75% minimum, so that only local officers are employed. Replace these officers with social workers, and use the remaining funds for all of the social services that we are told are strapped for cash every year and that our city council regularly votes to cut. A defunding of the police could mean healing in our community, an end to unrest, and the funds to fix our broken community.

A defunding of the police could mean healing in our community, an end to unrest, and the funds to fix our broken community.

The protests and riots and property damage seen across the country are the cries of an over-policed community that has had enough. Increased police violence will not solve this problem or satisfy this movement. It is time to reduce the number of armed, violent goons in our streets. It is time for our elected leaders to show they have courage and stand up to them, not default to hiding behind the cops. It is time for Portlanders to start giving a damn about Black lives and not about Louis Vutton or Apple. If we allow the Portland police to continue operating as they operate, we will only see more murders and more state repression. If our Portland elected leaders decide to keep the curfew and empower the police to treat us brutally, then they will only have more blood on their hands.

Portland DSA Calls on the NPC to Pass Resolution 11

The Portland DSA Steering Committee urges the National Political Committee to take up Resolution 11 from the 2019 Convention. The resolution reads: “Therefore be it resolved employment as a Law Enforcement Officer is in opposition to the principles of the organization as outlined by the DSA Constitution Article II. Persons employed as Law Enforcement Officers are therefore excluded from membership in DSA.” Due to time constraints the resolution was not able to be voted on last summer, but it is within the NPC’s power to pass any resolution that did not make it to the floor.

Our chapter implemented a similar ban on law enforcement officers last year. It was written in collaboration with members of our Racial Justice Working Group and Safety Working Group. We recognize that we keep us safe — not the police. We saw this when the Portland Police shot an antifascist protestor in the head with a flash bang while protecting Patriot Prayer members like Joey Gibson. We see this today in Minneapolis, the same way we have seen this in Ferguson, and Charlottesville. We recognize that the police serve and protect the interests of capital and the reactionary white supremacist state.

We recognize that we keep us safe — not the police.

If we are to take seriously our task of becoming a mass movement of the working class, we must make our organization safe: for undocumented immigrantsfor sex workersfor black and brown workers who disproportionately face the violence of the police. Preventing law enforcement from being members reasserts our commitment to anti oppression and working toward a truly liberatory world.

We urge the NPC to reaffirm the commitment made at the 2017 Convention, that DSA would commit to being a prison and police abolitionist organization, and approve Resolution 11.

In solidarity,

The Portland DSA Steering Committee

On Looting and Police Murder in a Capitalist State

A Statement from Portland DSA on the Murder of George Floyd and the Uprising in Minneapolis

George Floyd, 46, was murdered by the Minneapolis Police on Monday, May 25. We know he was beloved. He was killed by police under suspicion from a grocery worker that he was writing a bad check. This follows the murder of Breonna Taylor in her sleep by police in Louisville in March, and precedes the murder of Tony McDade by police in Tallahassee yesterday. We mourn their deaths. We will fight like hell for the living.

For the last three days, Minneapolis has erupted as protesters are pushing police out of their communities and retaking the streets. It is no overstatement to call the situation in Minneapolis a riot. Businesses are on fire. Windows have been smashed. Protesters have been reclaiming property from businesses like Target and Autozone. The media calls this looting, and privileged white communities, like ours here in Portland, often decry these actions as “unhelpful” and “the wrong way to protest.”

We in Portland DSA fully support the Minneapolis uprising and the protestors who are taking control of their community. We acknowledge, as Martin Luther King, Jr. did, that a riot is the language of the unheard. We know that the police are capitalism’s first line of defense, agents of a violent colonizer government. Police are used by this exploitative regime to keep Black and brown and poor people in check, to keep them incarcerated, to make them a fully subservient underclass subject to the whims of the largely white ruling class. The reaction of protesters in Minneapolis is not “too much” or “too violent.” It is entirely needed and overdue.

The major corporations targeted by these protesters make their riches by extracting money and labor out of the community. They destroy communities by controlling them economically. During the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen yet another massive wealth transfer to the rich, back to those who have economic control over this country. It is no wonder that protesters rioting against police violence would target these businesses. The police are the protectors of capitalist wealth, and it is capitalists who need a local, militarized army to maintain an impoverished underclass. We implore the white people in Portland, in our chapter and in the city at large, to refrain from criticizing the tactics used by people who experience oppression unlike anything a white person has ever experienced. We also encourage the white people of Portland to remember that they live on stolen land and that their empire is built on a long, terrible tradition of looting other nations and subjugating their people.

The massive outcry in Minneapolis came after the release of the bystander video witnessing George Floyd’s death. This has led to the firing of the four officers involved in the murder, including officers Derek Chauvin and Tou Thao. But firing is not enough. Criminal charges for Derek Chauvin and the responding officers are not enough. Derek Chauvin, who is shown in the video killing George Floyd, will be represented by local criminal defense attorney Tom Kelly, who also successfully represented the police officer who murdered Philando Castile. The justice system that Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey wants to use to prosecute these cops is a system made for white justice, not Black justice. The system is working as intended. The system will never tear itself down. So long as cops continue to exist, they will kill Black people with impunity, while the white supremacist economic system will enable and justify these murders. There is no justice in this system.

We see white supremacy continue in Minneapolis as police use tear gas on people protesting George Floyd’s murder — just as militarized police under the direction of Ted Wheeler turn weapons on civilians protesting white supremacy, fascism, and police violence in the streets of Portland. It is no surprise that when the police fail to maintain capitalist order in the streets of Minneapolis, the supposedly progressive Mayor Frey and the Governor of Minnesota call in the National Guard. We would expect the same in Portland under Ted Wheeler and Kate Brown. The “progressive” leaders of our country serve the ruling elite and they will not hesitate to use force to protect property.

We see the white supremacist economics of capitalism very clearly during COVID-19 as Black and brown people continue to be violently policed even as they die in disproportionate numbers working low-wage “essential” jobs. Capitalist white supremacy is present in exploitative disaster relief, where millions of poor and working families go into debt to keep housing and access basic necessities while billionaires amass even more wealth. Those with wealth and power are rarely held accountable for harm enacted upon others. Policing serves and protects only the interests of white supremacy and capitalism. Policing will never keep us safe.

In light of this, what does it mean to be a police officer in America? A police officer is the first point of contact with our carceral system, a system with 25% of the world’s incarcerated in a country with 5% of the world’s total population, where Black people are incarcerated at five times the rate of white people. These carceral rates make no logical sense until one looks at the systemic reason for incarceration: to remove those not cooperating with capitalism and put them into an exploitative workplace with extremely low-cost labor; in other words, to continue slavery for profit. Police officers are the foot-soldiers of a system designed to recapture the small scraps of freedom conceded by the ruling class.

We reflect on the words of Angela Davis:

“The prison functions ideologically as an abstract site into which undesirables are deposited, relieving us of the responsibility of thinking about the real issues afflicting those communities from which prisoners are drawn in such disproportionate numbers…. it relieves us of the responsibility of seriously engaging with the problems of our society, especially those produced by racism and, increasingly, global capitalism.”

Portland DSA stands in solidarity with Black Visions Collective (BVC) and others calling for funding cuts to the Minneapolis Police Department, and echo the same demands for our own police department. As BVC wrote in a recent statement, “Cut [Minneapolis Police Department]’s budget. We need money to keep our communities healthy during the pandemic, not murder them in the streets.” We also encourage you to donate to the Minnesota Freedom Fund in support of all jailed protesters:
Minnesota Freedom Fund

As ever, we call for the abolition of all police and the system that employs them.

Portland DSA To Lead Protest Against COVID Capitalism

The Portland chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America is leading a Caravan Against COVID Capitalism this Friday from 4 to 6PM, during which we will visit dozens of neighborhoods throughout the city of Portland via car. We invite the city to bang on pots and pans in a cacerolazo from their homes in support! We are calling on Mayor Ted Wheeler and Oregon Governor Kate Brown to enact a Workers’ Bailout:

1. Cancel all rent and mortgage payments without future backpay

2. Cancel all utility payments without future backpay

3. End all displacement and sweeps of houseless camps

4. Open additional shelters throughout the city of Portland and the state of Oregon

5. Release all prisoners, including ICE detainees

6. Implement compulsory paid leave for all and hazard pay for essential workers

Socialists know that the massive systemic collapse occuring around the world is not unprecedented. This is the result of a system designed to extract value from laborers — and when those laborers can’t go to work, the entire fragile ecosystem of capitalism begins to crumble. And for the leaders of our nation and our state, it is business as usual: they will pay lip service to working people while bailing out big business and leaving the rest of us behind. We are the ones who do the work! We are the ones who need protection! It’s time to organize for our rights!

With many Portland residents stuck at home with no work and rent due, the pressure is mounting, and it may feel impossible to make our voices heard in this time of severe isolation — but it is possible when we are united.

We will visit the neighborhoods of Irvington, Eliot, Pearl, Downtown, Buckman, Ladd’s Addition, Mt. Tabor, Montavilla, Powellhurst-Gilbert, Hazelwood, Russell, Parkrose, Sumner, Cully, Vernon, Boise, and many in-between.

If you can’t join the caravan, participate in a city-wide cacerolazo. This is the practice of banging pots and pans outside the windows of your home or on your porch in protest. It originated in South America and is currently being used in Brazil to protest against the far-right policies of President Jair Bolsonaro. Across the world, we may be cooped up at home, but we can still be in solidarity with workers everywhere.

The caravan will meet at 3:30PM at the parking lot at 1100 NE Weidler St. We will decorate our cars while maintaining social distance and begin the caravan at 4PM.

More info: http://bit.ly/NoCovidCapitalism