'Lawless city?' Worry after Portland police don't stop chaos

PORTLAND, Oregon (AP) This week, a crowd of 100 people ravaged downtown Portland, Oregon. They smashed storefront windows and set dumpsters ablaze, causing damage estimated at $500,000, but police officers weren't able to stop them.
Officials at the Portland Police Bureau claim that this is because of Oregon legislation, which limits their ability to deal with vandals and other criminals.

We didn't intervene because of what we discussed last month with House Bill 292 and the restrictions we placed in a crowd control atmosphere, KOIN reports. This was something Portland Police Lieutenant Jake Jensen stated in a neighborhood meeting on Thursday.

Portlanders were frustrated by Tuesday's latest round of violent demonstrations and asked if that meant there was anything to be done in Portland.

Linda Witt asked police if that means we now look like a lawless town. Jensen said that people could still face consequences later.

House Bill 2928 is the legislation at issue. It prohibits the use rubber bullets and pepper spray for crowd control. There is an exception if there are riot conditions and the officer using chemical incapacitants believes it is necessary to stop or prevent further destructive behavior.

Christine Drazan, House Minority Leader, stated that the law allows Portland Police to use all necessary tools to manage violent crowds. Christine Drazan spoke to The Associated Press Friday. But activist lawyers are intentionally misinterpreting legislation to stop police from intervening. They are not authorized to put law enforcement and safety in danger.

Portland Police Sergeant. Kevin Allen stated to AP that officers were made aware of potential consequences of the legislation, and that the city attorney's office is analyzing it.

Allen stated that until we get clarity on the bill, we must follow the most restrictive interpretation.

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Multiple requests for comment from Mayor Ted Wheelers' office were not answered on Friday. The Democratic Party controls the Legislature and the Democratic caucuses did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Since the Minneapolis police shooting of George Floyd, Portland has witnessed a series of violent protests. Some protestors have voiced concern that the police responded too forcefully to their murder.

Police say that 35 locations were targeted by police on Tuesday. These include banks, retail stores and coffee shops as well as government buildings.

Officials claim that although no police officers were present, they did direct the crowd to disperse using a loudspeaker. A Mobile Field Force then moved in and split the crowd.


Sara Cline is a member of the corps for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America, a non-profit national service program, places journalists in local newsrooms so they can report on undercovered topics.