As shootings skyrocket in Portland, commissioner denies there’s a gang problem, blames “economic insecurity’

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PORTLAND, OR- The city has seen surging gun violence over the past year and now there is a renewed debate over whether the city has a gang problem and what role gangs continue to play in the growing violence.

According to reports, 2020 ended up being the deadliest year in Portland in decades and with a little over two months into 2021, it has yet to slow down.

The continued violence has some community members concerned that it will only get worse during the summer if city leaders refuse to address the problem adequately. There is a hard split among city leaders, police, and some in the community over whether Portland has a gang problem.

Some community members say that the gang problem is undeniable. Elmer Yarborough, a former gang member who now mentors youth in Portland and volunteers with the city’s Crisis Response Team, said in a statement:

“Portland does have a gang problem. Anyone who says that Portland does not have a gang problem is ill-informed or misinformed.”

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty has long been critical of the perspective by some that the city has a gang problem. She has also pushed city leaders to move away from a law enforcement response to gun violence and instead wants to “expand investments” in social services.

When asked directly if the city has a gang problem, Hardesty responded by saying:

“No and I have lived here for 30 years. I remember when I first came here, people were like, ‘whatever you do, don’t go into inner northeast Portland. We got gangs everywhere.'”

She added:

“No, I do not believe Portland has a gang problem. I think Portland has a problem in investing in our youth.”

Hardesty said the violence is a result of things like domestic issues, economic insecurity, and other conflicts, but not gangs. Other city leaders have varied perspectives. A spokesman for Mayor Ted Wheeler said:

“Simplification is a disservice to the facts on the ground and the families who have been and continue to be harmed.”

The spokesman for the mayor added that gangs contribute to the violence, but pointed to domestic violence, conflicts between neighbors, economic hardships, and mental crisis as other contributors. Commissioner Mingus Mapps said in a statement:

“I cannot say for sure whether Portland has a problem with gang violence. ‘Gang’ tends to be shortened for black youth. Poverty breeds violence as people fight over scarce resources. Last year we saw a historic increase in poverty due to the pandemic and now we are seeing historic violence.”

A police officer who served on the city’s Gang Enforcement Team and then the Gun Violence Reduction Team said that much of the violence seen in 2020 was a result of gang battles and retaliation. 

Portland Police Acting Sergeant Charlie Asheim said that this past summer the city saw shootings that involved dozens sometimes even over a hundred shell casings. He said that is a tell-tale sign of gang-related shootings. He said in a statement:

“I would say by far the majority of those shootings are gang-related. Gangs build their power by their willingness to do violence. You hit me, I shoot you. You shoot us, I shoot two of you and it just builds this retaliatory cycle of violence.”

He added:

“A lot of the violence we’ve seen in the city of Portland going back to mid-year last year, has been part of that cycle and it just keeps going.”

When asked how he knew that, he responded by saying:

“I know that through evidence. I know through evidence that we have access to as police officers, by seeing that the same gun is being used in the same shooting, shooting, 7, 10 different people.”

Asheim said that gangs make Portland less safe and he said that the refusal by city leaders to acknowledge the problem makes it impossible to address. He added that it should not be a decision between police or social services; city leaders should properly fund both. 

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Here’s your ‘unity’: More damage reported after far-left rioters engage in vandalism in Portland and Seattle

January 21st, 2021

According to reports, groups of far-left rioters engaged in various acts of vandalism and other alleged criminal offenses in both Seattle, Washington and in Portland, Oregon following the inauguration of President Joe Biden.

Among these groups of rioters were individuals adorning what’s typically referred to as Antifa black bloc.

With regard to the events that transpired in Seattle, Washington, there are reports of at least three people who were arrested during the unrest.

According to Seattle police, one individual had been arrested for property damage, another arrested for assault, and another individual arrested for an alleged burglary and property damage with respect to a Starbucks storefront within the city.

Images of the property damage that occurred in Seattle were shared by the Seattle Police Department on Twitter.

Among the images displayed are what appeared to be an Amazon Go storefront having been defaced with spray paint and also shattered windows among the William Kenzo Nakamura courthouse.

The protests which hosted the criminal acts started at around 4:30 p.m. on January 20th in Seattle, which started out initially as a hodgepodge of individuals having congregated at a park before they started to march throughout the streets of downtown Seattle.

Individuals among the group that were marching had been seen carrying signs that hosted such popular far-left slogans like “Abolish ICE”, while other signage present during the protest bore messages generally denigrating both law enforcement and the newly elected President Biden.  

Local reporting of the riotous demonstration that transpired in Seattle alleged that some within the group of protesters were hurling objects at vehicles and engaging in targeted harassment of people who were not among them protesting.

Videos also surfaced online showcasing an American flag that was draped out in the middle of an intersection that was lit afire by the protesters. However, the fire was reportedly extinguished quickly thereafter.

As mentioned earlier, protests and riotous acts of this brand were not only present in Seattle on January 20th – but also in Portland.

According to Portland Police Sergeant Kevin Allen, a group of roughly 150 people had amassed at Revolution Hall at approximately 2:00 p.m. on January 20th in Portland and then made their way over to the Democratic Party of Oregon headquarters.

This Portland-based protest was coined as the J20 protest – which was essentially billed as a demonstration against President Biden’s inauguration and also expressing disdain toward law enforcement in general.

Apparently, this group of people we’re also trying to support the rights of indigenous people.

Much in line with the typical acts often associated with Antifa inspired protests and riots, the Portland demonstration saw the likes of smashed windows, buildings being vandalized by way of graffiti, and also hostile interactions with police officers who were attempting to maintain order.

Despite a new administration coming into the White House that are compliments of the Democratic Party, it appears those among the far-left are still not satisfied – and are up to the same sort of antics akin to the summer riots of 2020.

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We at Law Enforcement Today recently reported a more detailed account of the “J20” protest in Portland. 

Here’s that previous report. 

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PORTLAND, OR – Protesters linked to Antifa began attacking police and smashing windows in Portland during planned “J20” protests just hours after President Joe Biden took the oath of office on Wednesday. Windows at the Democratic Party of Oregon building were smashed and the building was vandalized.

Portland Police Sgt. Kevin Allen reported that several protests had been scheduled in the city, and a crowd of about 150 people gathered at Revolution Hall around 2 p.m. and marched to the Democratic Party building.

Several of the protesters were dressed in all black, the signature uniform of the Antifa movement. Several marchers carried banners with messages including “We are ungovernable” and “a new world from the ashes.”

The protesters smashed windows and vandalized the building with graffiti. Police arrived on bicycles and tried to arrest a protester armed with a knife. They also attempted to remove metal poles from a banner being carried so they could not be used as weapons, according to a Portland Police Bureau spokesman.

Video posted on Twitter showed some of the protesters trying to take bicycles from the officers.  Sgt. Allen said the crowd started to attack the outnumbered officers:

“As officers disengaged, the crowd showed aggression by swarming officers and throwing objects.”

Officers deployed a smoke canister so that they could make a tactical retreat to regroup. Police reported that one knife was seized from the crowd. The Mayor’s office confirmed around 4 p.m. that police had made three arrests of people for using crowbars to smash windows in the building.

The crowd moved from the area, and some began blocking a freeway on-ramp, police reported. Dumpster fires were ignited in the area.

Police reported that multiple arrests had been made by 4:30 p.m. before police said the crowd began to disperse from the area.

“J20” stands for January 20, the date the president of the United States is inaugurated. “Disrupt J20” was organized in July 2016 with the stated goal of disrupting then-President Donald Trump. This year, “J20” aimed to oppose President Biden’s inauguration and law enforcement. “J20” did not have a clear goal other than supporting anarchy. Some called for justice for the homeless, a growing problem in Portland.

Some of the marches chanted slogans such as “We don’t want Biden, we want revenge.”

Some demonstrators were there to celebrate. A small group gathered on Northeast Broadway holding signs supporting Black Lives Matter. Demonstrator Betty Scholten said she felt joyful because she expects President Biden’s administration to focus on equal rights for black people.

“I’m hoping. He (Biden) said it would be,” Scholten said admitting she did not expect change overnight. “(Change) is a long way down the road.” She said she would keep protesting “until we don’t need to anymore.”

Scholten said she and others will keep demonstrating along Broadway “until we don’t need to anymore.”

Other groups, including the Defend Democracy Coalition, gathered around 5 p.m. at Irving Park, where about 150 people attended a demonstration. People chanted support for Black Lives Matter and “Inauguration Justice” car caravan drove from Portland College’s Cascade Campus to the rally at Irving Park.

A speaker told the crowd:

“This is such a monumental day. Because today is the day, we dump Trump. But we need to embrace resistance too. The fight is just beginning.”

Suzie Kassouf, Founder of the climate justice organization Sunrise PDX, asked the crowd if President Biden wanted rapid climate justice. The crowd chanted back, “no.” She said:

“All movements for justice are one. It’s no accident that the people that are hurt first and worst by the climate crisis and environmental injustice are Black and brown.”

 In a scary and surreal moment during the protest, a car flipped over in the area. Several demonstrators ran to the car and pulled a little girl and her mother from the vehicle. They were uninjured.

Police said the Irving Park demonstration remained peaceful.

Another protest was scheduled for 8 p.m. a South Portland’s Caruthers Park.

Law Enforcement Today is following this matter and will report on developments.

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