Portland, OR – Recent law changes forced Portland police to stand by and watch as a mob of approximately 100 rioters tore through the downtown area causing over $500,000 in damages last week.
The night of Oct. 12, the violent anarchists set dumpsters ablaze, blocked off roadways, smashed out storefront windows, and spray painted antifa and anti-police messages such as “KILL COPS” and “RIOTS WORK” throughout the downtown corridor, photos shared by the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) showed.
“Officers were called to respond citywide, and all but the highest priority life safety 911 calls were left to hold so officers could be dispatched,” the PPB said in a press release.
Due to restrictions placed on them by recent law changes, police were unable to do much to stop the mayhem.
“The reason that we did not intervene goes back to what we talked about last month with HB 2928 and the restrictions placed on us in a crowd control environment,” PPB Lieutenant Jake Jensen explained during a Pearl District Neighborhood Association meeting two nights later, according to KOIN. “That’s the way our legislature has said we need to operate in a crowd control environment.”
The PPB used a loudspeaker to order the mob to disperse, but their hands were otherwise tied, according to the press release.
The group splintered off into multiple directions while some rioters laid down in front of police vehicles in an attempt to block them from being able to respond, the PPB said.
The anarchists swapped out clothing during the riot in order to make it even more difficult for investigators to identify them, according to police.
By the time the rioters finally dispersed at about 11 p.m., they’d wreaked havoc on at least 35 separate locations, including retail stores, banks, government buildings, and coffee shops, the PPB said.
No arrests were made.
“At this point the damage is believed to be in excess of $500,000, and reports are still being compiled,” the PPB said on Oct. 13.
PPB Chief Chuck Lovell said in the press release that he is “concerned about the brazen criminal acts” that occurred in the downtown area.
“I want to assure those who were victimized that investigations are underway, and we will do whatever we can to identify and arrest those who were responsible,” Chief Lovell added. “We ask that anyone with information please reach out to us. Thank you to all the officers who responded to a challenging situation.”
Lt. Jensen told the neighborhood association that without the proper tools, there isn’t much police can do to stop violent rioters from destroying the city, KOIN reported.
“The fact of the matter is without being able to use pepper spray, without being able to use our 40mm less-lethal devices in that kind of environment, it really prevents us from having access to the tools we need in large part to keep ourselves safe,” he said.
Having more officers at the scene also wouldn’t have solved the problem.
“This issue, if I’m understanding, will not be solved no matter how many officers you bring back — yes or no?” Pearl District Neighborhood Association Secretary and Director of Communications Bill Bagnall asked him during the meeting.
“Yes, that is correct,” Lt. Jensen confirmed.
Resident Linda Witt asked if the police response means Portland has become a “lawless city” where “anyone can come in and just bash around and do all the damage they want without any repercussions whatsoever,” KOIN reported.
Lt. Jensen said that description isn’t entirely accurate because police can still charge offenders after the riot is over.
“In these cases, the consequences are going to come not on the night of, but in the follow-up investigation,” he said, according to KOIN.
Under House Bill 2928, police can use rubber bullets and pepper spray in cases where protests evolve into riots and the officer believes such tools are necessary to stop more destructive criminal acts, ABC News reported.
But PPB Sergeant Kevin Allen said the city attorney’s office is still analyzing the law to determine all of the “potential implications.”
“Until we have some clarity on the bill, we have to follow the most restrictive interpretation of it,” Sgt. Allen said.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the issue late last week, nor did lawmakers of the Democratic legislative caucuses of the state legislature, according to ABC News.
Director of Coalition to Save Portland Co-founder and Director Gabriel Johnson, a Marine Corps veteran, told FOX News he lives near where the riots have been taking place for the past 18 months.
“First and foremost, this is not a new practice here,” Johnson said. “The Central Precinct is a block away from my house. We’re hearing the explosions; we’re hearing the commercial-grade fireworks reverberating throughout the downtown corridor.”
He said the PPB didn’t begin responding to last week’s riot until about an hour after it was underway.
“Even after the riot is declared, at this point the city pretty much has a hands-off approach to these rioters and terrorists,” he told FOX News. “We’ve seen these people being arrested and released time and time again.”
Johnson said the city of Portland “has been an area of lawlessness for the past 18 months,” to include an all-time high in homicides and over 1,000 shootings.
According to a recent poll, 71 percent of Portland residents support having more officers on the streets, he told FOX News.
“Unfortunately, we’re living in an area where we’ve been defunded,” Johnson added. “Portland has a chance to change this tide. We’ve got $62 million in budget surplus and right now we’re waiting for the city to give some of that money back – put that money back into public safety. It’s something that we deserve, it’s something that we demand, and I think it’s time.”