What is happening in Portland?
A question being asked around the United States, fueled by a combination of curiosity, concern, and the inconsistent stream of information being reported. Depending on your favorite news network, the narrative will be very different.
From most accounts, specifically local news outlets, while most are peaceful protesters there has been some property damage but they are not burning down federal courthouses, jails, police stations, hurling rocks at cops, or assaulting non-protesting citizens, yet they find a contingency of unmarked vehicles, local officers without clear ID or uniforms, federal and military presence.
Is so much outside force descending into Portland warranted? That’s the debate.
Police unions have stated the camouflaging of badge numbers and names is for police safety. There have been reports of officers’ info found and shared leading to concerns about family safety.
And that is where inconsistent reporting is subjective to who and what you read or listen to.
Both sides have visuals to support their commentary.
From images of burning dumpsters in front of the Portland Police Association union office on Friday night where protesters carried the fire inside the building, to a naked woman appearing on the street to confront the officers, now being called “naked athena”.
She walked out to the intersection in front of where police were standing, only wearing a face mask. After pacing near the crosswalk, she laid down, pointed her legs outwards, and peacefully stared down the police force.
Photographer Dave Killen took the viral photo and said “Everyone seemed surprised and kind of astounded,”
The officers shot pepper balls at her feet. Another protester ran out in front of her with a homemade shield, Killen added, but she sidestepped him and his shield.
“She was incredibly vulnerable,” Killen said.
If these contrasts aren’t astonishing enough, some media outlets reporting aggression towards police officers, supporting the militarized federal response with other media outlets reporting how anonymous federal officers are illegally detaining protestors.
The latter is being investigated by Oregon’s US Attorney.
This debate is not just amongst reporting outlets, it’s a hotly contested political argument. In a joint statement released by the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer.“Last month, the Administration tear-gassed peaceful protestors in Washington, D.C., Now, videos show them kidnapping protestors in unmarked cars in Portland – all with the goal of inflaming tensions for their own gain,”
“While Portland is the President’s current target, any city could be next,” the statement said.
While the President has vowed to protect federal property, tweeting “I just had the privilege of signing a very strong Executive Order protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues – and combatting recent Criminal Violence,”.
“Long prison terms for these lawless acts against our Great Country!”
Oregon officials are upset with President Trump for sending federal agents into Portland amid the ongoing protests against police brutality and racism.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler view it as a political maneuver for the President to rial up his base for the upcoming elections.
“As best as I can tell, this is an effort — a last gasp effort — by a failed president with sagging polling data, who’s trying to look strong for his base,” Mayor Ted Wheeler said in an interview with NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro.
In response, the state of Oregon said it would sue the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other federal law enforcement agencies.
Oregon officials feel President Trump is overreaching with his actions, as Governor Brown voiced to NPR’s Michael Martin “We don’t have a secret police in this country. This is not a dictatorship. And Trump needs to get his officers off the streets.”
Yet the President couldn’t see it any differently.
President Trump tweeted “We are trying to help Portland, not hurt it,” Trump said. “Their leadership has, for months, lost control of the anarchists and agitators. They are missing in action. We must protect Federal property AND OUR PEOPLE. These were not merely protesters, these are the real deal!”
And that is the real situation, a metaphor for a country divided.
In the middle of racial tensions, protests, and a global pandemic, the unity between elected officials is seemingly non-existent with their preferred media outlets highlighting the contrasts.
Portland might just be an opportunity for us to talk, and like “naked Athena” free ourselves from the proverbial clothing that hinders us from finding common ground.