Portland’s City Council recently voted 3-2 against a proposal by Mayor Ted Wheeler, and backed by Police Chief Danielle Outlaw, to give him new powers to limit the time, place, and size of protests in an effort to curb large and violent brawls at downtown public protests.
Those brawls between fascist street gangs like the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer on the one hand and anti-fascist activists on the other, have grown in frequency, size, and intensity over the past year. Many people out there may wonder why rejecting the proposal is a victory for the Left. Don’t we want to stop fascist street gangs from organizing in our town, from marching and brawling in our streets, from threatening and attacking people? Wouldn’t this new ordinance have given the Mayor and the police the power to do that?
As the Solidarity Organizer for Portland Jobs with Justice, I’d like to briefly explore why the answer is not that simple and why this is indeed a victory for Portland’s Left.
We have seen Mayor Wheeler provide free and private use of public bus services to these fascist street gangs.
We have seen time and again the Portland Police use disproportionate and violent, deadly force against the Left when we come out to protest fascists. We’ve seen the Chief defend that use of use of force by publicly mocking the Left and all but pledging allegiance to the defense of an armed right wing.
It seems to me that what we have learned from all this experience is that whatever new powers the Mayor and Chief have will undoubtedly be used disproportionately against the Left in our attempts to defend our community from the fascist creep.
If that is true then the path forward that leads us to an end of violence and street brawls in Portland certainly does not include giving the Mayor and Police Chief new, quasi-dictatorial, unconstitutional powers that they would undoubtedly use in the future to justify further and greater violence against the Left.
The path forward lies in continuing to build the relationships and coalitions needed to engage in mass mobilizations that counter, shut down, and deny space and a platform to the fascist street gangs that are invading our community. The path forward is to come together and build a united front so big that racism and fascism drown in a sea of popular resistance.
Let’s get to work and build that movement together!
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