The nightly violence from the far Left in Portland, Oregon has become campaign fodder for Republicans from Donald Trump on down, and in a new piece at Politico Magazine, several Democrats are reluctantly admitting that they don’t have a good answer to the accusations that politicians like Mayor Ted Wheeler are soft in their response to the ongoing unrest.
Of course the Politico piece is sure to try to lay some of the blame for the disorder in Portland on the Right as well, noting that as agitators have continued with destructive acts of violence on a nightly basis, conservative groups have responded by coming to the city to counter the protests.
Portland’s homegrown clash of extremists on both sides has become so entrenched it is creating a gravitational pull on others from around the country. Left-wing forces, including antifa and others, insist that “Riots and looting” are “a legitimate and profound form of protest,” as a post on one of the popular far-left regional Facebook pages encouraging violence recently read. Meanwhile, the pro-Trump group Patriot Prayer, headquartered north of the city, are eager to confront the opposition. “They go there to provoke physical confrontation, to try to bait people into street fighting,” Daryl Johnson, a former Department of Homeland Security official focused on domestic extremism, said. “Now people are transiting the country, learning from people in Portland. People may have traveled from Portland to get some battle experience, so to speak.”
What’s a Democratic mayor like Ted Wheeler to do? Unsurprisingly, gun control activist Chelsea Parsons from the Center for American Progress tells Politico that the answer lies in going after gun owners.
The solution, such as it is, rests largely on being proactive, rather than simply reacting to the latest convoy of would-be Minutemen facing off with masked antifa crowds. “In the absence of leadership federally, it is incumbent on state and local leaders to get in front of it and at least start educating the community,” Parsons said.
Part of that solution stems not from new policies, necessarily, but from local leaders familiarizing themselves with the laws as they exist—especially those laws that prohibitarmed crowds massing near polling places, or that limit open-carry rights. There are still “widespread misunderstandings of the scope of the Second Amendment, and the scope of the abilities to openly carry firearms in the community, and where lines are around the ability to do this,” Parsons said. Or as Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller decision expanding the rights of private citizens to wield firearms, the “Second Amendment right is not unlimited.”
No matter how much gun control activists claim that “police violence is gun violence,” they always come back to the idea that armed agents of the State targeting gun owners is the way to make our society safer.
Parsons is actually correct when she says that officials in Portland need to be proactive in their approach to stopping the violence, but she’s off-target by focusing on gun owners. People have a right to keep and bear arms. They don’t have a right to try to burn down a federal courthouse or go rampaging through the downtown streets destroying every business they can break into.
Every window that’s been broken in Portland, every fire that’s been set, and every threat to burn down the homes flying American flags is another example of the unwillingness of supposed leaders like Wheeler to keep the peace and restore order. Even Biden supporters are forced to admit that the deteriorating situation in Portland isn’t likely to get better anytime soon.
Confrontations—and escalation—will almost certainly continue in Portland and its environs, from the steps of the Oregon capitol to the Confederate memorial just a few miles north of the city. “I thought some of the recent killings might cause some people to pause for a moment, take a breath,” Pitcavage said. “But that doesn’t seem to have happened, and I don’t see any reason for it to go away in the conceivable future.”
“We’re in for a long six to eight months,” Johnson said, “and maybe even longer than that.”
It didn’t have to be that way. Ted Wheeler and Gov. Kate Brown have had years to let the far-Left in Portland know that violence wouldn’t be tolerated. Instead, he gave them space to riot and excused their violence by blaming Trump and conservatives for the destructive actions of Antifa, allowing the unrest to grow exponentially worse. How do you solve a problem like Portland? Thanks to the continued cowardice of Wheeler and Brown, all of the easy options are now off the table.