Portland, Ore., police Chief Chuck Lovell on Wednesday morning decried violent instigators who he said are marring the message of mostly peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters.
“Portlanders need to send a strong message that enough is enough,” Lovell told reporters at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, according to KGW-TV in Portland. “This is not forwarding the goals that are going to lead to better outcomes for people of color. This movement is really powerful, but the violence has taken away from it. … This is not what Portland is about. This is not what we need in our city.”
The protests, which have sometimes turned into late-night riots focused on the Multnomah County Justice Center and the federal courthouse, have continued unabated for more than two months since the May 25 death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.
Lovell said there have been many large peaceful protests that required no police presence but the smaller offshoot actions — setting fires, breaking windows and throwing objects at police — are taking away from the larger message.
Late Wednesday, Portland police declared a riot and said they believe an explosive device had been left outside a precinct. People were ordered to disperse, and some streets were closed.
“I’ve never seen a summer like this,” Lovell, who was named police chief in early June, said.
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He added that shootings have also spiked since the defunding of the Gun Violence Reduction Team over accusations of racism.
There were 99 shootings in July, up from 35 in July 2019, police said, according to OregonLive.com.
Lovell told reporters he doesn’t believe the team’s actions were racist even though it arrested more Black suspects than anyone else. He said the majority of victims are Black – 66% last month.
“A lot of those stops end with handshakes and conversation,” he said. “And there’s a real familiarity and people miss it. We hear from a lot of people in the community saying ‘hey, we need the Gun Violence Reduction Team back. We need these officers that know our community, that know this issue of gun violence that we really relied on to help stay safe.'”
He added that taking police off patrol to cover protests has left fewer officers to respond to emergencies, according to KGW.
Downtown protests have become more peaceful since federal officers agreed to leave last week, so some instigators have moved to other police buildings across the city to cause problems.
Early Wednesday, police had declared a riot and made three arrests after saying demonstrators set fires, erected barricades in a street and broke into the police union headquarters. Police said someone also fired a gun during the unrest and a pickup truck accelerated into the crowd while pushing an unoccupied motorcycle in front of it.
Lovell wrote a New York Times op-ed Monday titled, “I’m the Police Chief in Portland. Violence Isn’t the Answer.”
“As a Black man and a public servant, I see that spectacle is drowning out the voices that need to be heard to make positive change,” he wrote. “This violence is doing nothing to further the Black Lives Matter movement.”
Lovell also praised officers’ “professionalism” and said he has confidence in his community.
Story cited here.