Tuesday’s election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States has evoked a number of loud, strong reactions, including some that have gone beyond the spoken word. Many of those who opposed the Republican nominee have taken to the streets in a number of American cities over the last five nights, protesting the election of a candidate whose campaign they found dehumanizing, racist, homophobic, misogynist and xenophobic, and who has been accused of sexual assault by some 15 women.
While protests in cities like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Oakland, Calif., and others have largely been peaceful, the demonstrations in Portland, Ore., have at times boiled over. Portland police characterized Thursday night’s protest, which included marching demonstrators shutting down area freeways, as “a riot” after reports of vandalism, property damage, aggressive behavior, heated arguments and altercations, as well as the ignition of a dumpster fire downtown and some protesters reportedly throwing objects at police. Police responded by arresting dozens of protesters, and using “less lethal munitions” — flash bangs, “some kind of gas” and rubber bullets — to disperse crowds.
The tensions continued through Friday night, with one man getting shot on the Morrison Bridge and suffering non-life threatening injuries early Saturday morning. Police later arrested two men in connection with that shooting, believed to be the first to occur during an anti-Trump protest.
The ongoing demonstrations, and the violence associated with them, have troubled Portland Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard, who questioned the efficacy of protesters’ actions during a Saturday interview with ESPN’s Chris Haynes:
“I think it’s very unfortunate that people have done some of the things they have done during the protest. A lot of harm and damage has been done,” Lillard told ESPN on Saturday. “I do understand their frustration, and I commend people wanting to come together for some kind of change. Tearing apart your own city just isn’t the place to begin, and also making your own city less of a safe place isn’t the answer.” […]
“For someone to be shot on the bridge lets you know it has gone too far,” Lillard said. “That could have been a kid out there or any person catching a stray bullet.” […]
“Portland has been a great place since I’ve been here and long before, but this type of activity doesn’t even seem to fit the description of Portland,” Lillard said. “Especially when the majority of the people here voted for [Democratic presidential candidate] Hillary [Clinton]. So if this is an anti-Trump rally, then you’re probably harming the people that you side with in most cases. So again I share the same worry, but I don’t think this is the solution.”
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It’s reasonable for Lillard to look at a situation in which a person was shot, in which car windows were broken, in which fires were started and in which unrest spilled over beyond the bounds of direct resistance of the president-elect as problematic, unsafe and questionable. A reasonable person could also lament those incidents while believing wholeheartedly in the need for continued mass public resistance, even in a left-leaning city.
The issue calls to mind something the hip-hop journalist and cultural commentator Jay Smooth said a couple of years ago: “If you’re worried about the effects, you need to be thinking about the cause. Riots are a thing that human beings do because human beings have limits. We don’t all have the same limits.” Your limit, like your position on the inciting causes of the resistance that produced these regrettable effects, may vary.
Whether Lillard’s words have any impact on those who have taken to the streets since Trump’s election remains to be seen, but they didn’t stem the tide on Saturday. Despite calls from Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, Police Chief Mike Marshman and local activists for a one-day cessation of public action, demonstrations in Portland continued on Saturday night, with “several hundred people” protesting, according to the Associated Press.
Police reported 71 more arrests stemming from protesters’ “failing to obey numerous lawful orders to vacate streets,” as well as the tossing of several projectiles — “such as road flares and bottles” — at officers. From Grant Butler of The Oregonian:
The protest came after Portland city officials and protest organizers had called for a day off to calm tensions and to give the city time to heal. That calm didn’t materialize. Instead, protesters gathered at Pioneer Courthouse Square in the early evening, and later moved to City Hall. Police deployed flash bang grenades and pepper or tear gas in an effort to disperse marchers. The arrests happened after protesters threw bottles and other objects and police, and blocked light rail lines around the square.
“This is a wonderful city and one of the things that makes it wonderful is that we are tolerant of each other,” Hales said Saturday. “We need to get back to that.”
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