“City without law? Worry after Portland police fail to stop chaos | Oregon News
By SARA CLINE, Associated Press
PORTLAND, Oregon (AP) – A mob of 100 people wreaked havoc in downtown Portland, Oregon this week – smashing store windows, setting dumpsters on fire and causing at least $ 500,000 in damage – but the police did not stop them.
Portland Police Department officials say it’s because of legislation passed by Oregon lawmakers this year, which restricts the tools they can use to confront people who vandalize buildings and cause chaos .
“The reason we didn’t intervene dates back to what we talked about last month with House Bill 2928 and the restrictions placed on us in a crowd control environment,” KOIN reports as the Portland Police Lt. Jake Jensen said at a neighborhood meeting Thursday.
Residents frustrated with the latest round of destructive protests on Tuesday wondered if that meant something was happening in Portland now.
“Does this mean that we are now like a city without law?” Linda Witt asked during the meeting with the police. Jensen responded by saying that people can still face consequences later.
The legislation in question is House Bill 2928, which prohibits the use of products such as pepper spray and rubber bullets to control crowds. However, there is one exception – when the circumstances constitute a riot and the agent using the chemical incapacitant reasonably believes its use is necessary to stop and prevent more destructive behavior.
“The law clearly allows the Portland police to use the effective tools necessary to control violent crowds,” Minority Parliamentary Leader Christine Drazan told The Associated Press on Friday. “However, activist lawyers are deliberately misinterpreting the law to prevent the police from intervening. They do not have to endanger law enforcement and the safety of the community. “
Portland Police Sgt. Kevin Allen told AP officers have been made aware of the “potential implications” of the legislation and that it is being analyzed by the city attorney’s office.
“Until we have some clarity on the bill, we must follow the more restrictive interpretation of it,” Allen said.
Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment on Friday. Neither do lawmakers in the Legislature’s Democratic Legislative Caucuses, which are controlled by the Democratic Party.
Portland has seen ongoing protests, often violent, since the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. Some activists complained that the police were harsh in their response.
Police said on Tuesday 35 separate locations had been targeted, including banks, retail stores, cafes and government buildings.
Authorities say although police did not directly intervene, officers gave orders to disperse over loudspeakers and a mobile campaign force intervened, causing the crowd to become divided.
Sara Cline is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative body. Report for America is a national, nonprofit service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to cover undercover issues.
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