Portland, OR – Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty said police have been the ones setting fires during the weeks of rioting in the city, and accused them of blaming the blazes on rioters in order to give them an excuse to attack citizens.
“I am old enough to remember that during the civil rights movement, the police had provocateurs…intentionally added to the group to do disruptive stuff,” Hardesty told Marie Claire in a recent interview. “I have no doubt in my mind, I believe with all my heart, that that is what Portland police are doing.”
“I believe Portland Police [Bureau] is lying about the damage—or starting the fires themselves—so that they have justification for attacking community members,” the commissioner added.
Social media has been flooded with footage showing rioters setting fires throughout the city during the past two months of nightly riots.
Thus far, there is no evidence that Hardesty’s allegations are valid, according to Marie Claire.
Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Chief Chuck Lovell sharply rebuked the commissioner’s accusations, calling them “completely false.”
“The Commissioner’s statement that police officers would commit the crime of arson in order to precipitate their violation of people’s civil rights strains credulity,” Chief Lovell said in a written statement on Wednesday. “I am interested in seeing what evidence she has to support her accusations.”
“I’m disappointed that an elected official would make a statement like this without providing specific facts to support it,” he added.
In addition to claiming that police are setting the city on fire, Hardesty called Portland Police Association (PPA) President Daryl Turner a liar during a city council meeting on Wednesday, and alleged that he and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler had invited federal officers to come to the city, KATU reported.
“It is appalling to find out the Portland Police Association and the union president continues to lie to the public on a daily basis about the lack of cooperation by Portland police personnel,” Hardesty declared during the meeting. “If Portland does not stand up now and we as a City Council don’t hold our own police officers accountable for this egregious behavior…we will go down in history of having failed in our obligation to protect community members.”
The commissioner claimed federal officers have been “attacking” citizens for no reason, and complained that PPB has done nothing to help shield people from them.
“I still have to question why was Portland police not protecting Portlanders when these federal goons came in and started attacking us rather than joining the federal goons who were attacking peaceful protesters,” Hardesty said, according to KATU.
Turner said in a statement on Wednesday night that Hardesty “is part of the problem in Portland.”
He noted that he has watched countless videos of the rioting, all of which confirmed “that small groups of rioters are starting the fires and trying to burn down buildings.”
“Even a quick search of Twitter shows rioters setting the fires and boldly claiming responsibility,” the union president pointed out.
Turner said he has invited elected officials to “stand at the front lines” of the riots with police to witness for themselves what has been occurring, but that not a single member of the city council has taken him up on his offer.
“If Commissioner Hardesty has evidence of her outlandish accusation, she should immediately produce it,” he wrote. “Of course, there is no such evidence. This is just one more example of Commissioner Hardesty putting her personal political agenda ahead of the best interests of the citizens of Portland.”
Turner then likened certain politicians to the rioters who have been destroying the city.
“Politicians bent on power, perpetuating misinformation and untruths, are just as guilty of using their privilege to hijack this movement as the rioters who are committing violent acts, burning, and looting,” he said. “Both actions are causing destruction and chaos at a time when our communities are pleading for leadership and meaningful change.”
Hardesty issued a statement later on Wednesday night explaining that she is just “angry, frustrated and horrified” by the events that have transpired in Portland over the past two months, KATU reported.
“Today I let my emotions get the most of me during council and the comment I made to the press,” she lamented.
Hardesty then claimed that her comments were simply fueled by the terror she feels over concerns “that someone will be killed because of an officers’ inability to de-escalate or walk away from a situation,” KATU reported.
“I’m angry that even as a City Commissioner, I am coming up against countless barriers from protecting protesting Portlanders from the deluge of tear gas, pepper spray, and other munitions on a nightly basis,” she wrote. “My worst fear, [is] that those that seek to discredit protests are helping initiate it.”
The commissioner said that historically, “people have been sent to infiltrate” mass protests and movements “to create incidents that justify enhanced police actions,” KATU reported.
Hardesty apologized for “using unfounded claims and misinformation,” then immediately called on the PPB to follow her lead.
“I hope this is something Portland Police Bureau will also remember as they put out nightly statements regarding the protests, their conduct, and their involvement with federal officers, because we can all agree lives are on the line,” she wrote.