Folks in Portland have had their knickers in a twist for a while about the Department of Homeland Security rolling up and arresting people who tried to vandalize a federal building. Nevermind that this is well within DHS’s jurisdiction or anything. It was all a problem because Orange Man Bad and all that jazz.
That’s been a lot of what we’ve heard from Portland officials. They’ve made it clear they didn’t want any help from the federal government to quell the unrest.
Yet they might want to rethink that. After all, while we hear a lot about the protests, they have bigger problems.
Garmon’s business is one of the casualties in an intense new round of protests this month. Federal law enforcement officers have stayed off the streets, but Portland police have been out in force every night, often deep into the early morning hours — to respond to protesters, some of whom have sought to break in or set fire to buildings used by police.
Portland police’s renewed focus on protests comes amid a surge in shootings and homicides, which took the lives of 15 people in July, the highest monthly tally in 30 years. The Portland Police Bureau chief says the renewed diversion of officers to protest duty this month makes it more difficult to follow up on shootings and maintain a street presence to try to head off gun violence.
Among some in the city’s Black community, there also is concern about a move made by Portland politicians to respond to protest demands for police reform. Earlier in the summer, the City Council disbanded a 35-person gun violence reduction team because of concerns that it disproportionately targeted people of color.
Critics of that vote say that the unit should not have been disbanded without first developing an alternative way to accomplish outreach efforts. The unit worked with parole and probation officers. They had relationships forged with schools and community-based organizations, as well as gang members and their families as they strove to take guns off the street.
“The city decided to cut … with no real plan, and that left the community with no sense of who to reach out to,” said Joe McFerrin II, president and chief executive officer of Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center, which assists at-risk youth.
In other words, while they’ve been lashing out at President Trump for DHS going after rioters who attack federal buildings, they’ve seen a surge in violent crime and should probably be begging for any help they can get.
But, Portland won’t.
I can’t help but see their refusal to address the violence as evidence that they don’t really care about it. They could have been addressing it, trying to deal with it–even if I’m quite sure every effort they’d make to deal with the violence would fall flat on its face–but instead, they’ve taken whatever steps they could to fire shots at President Trump.
They’ve got bigger problems, problems that they need to be more focused on while they also deal with ongoing protests.