The (black) police chief's tale: Exactly one week ago, we asked an award-winning question.
We asked if the Post and the Times, and our own cable stars, might perhaps be understating the amount of violence in Portland.
More specifically, we asked about the amount of violence being committed by our own anti-Trump forces. We asked if we liberals might perhaps be receiving a sanitized version of that.
Yesterday, the New York Times gave the Portland police chief his say. In our view, the Times did the right thing when it published his essay—and, so far, staffers haven't even said they feel unsafe as a result!
Who the heck is the Portland police chief? His name is Chuck Lovell—and he even says that he's black.
For ourselves, we weren't physically present in Portland to see what was going on. But the Times was right to give Lovell his say. After briefly clearing his throat, he began his account like this:
LOVELL (8/4/20): ...Portland has now faced weeks of extreme difficulties and drew intense national attention after federal officers were deployed here.
As police officers, our duty is to uphold the rights of anyone to assemble peacefully and engage in free speech. But over the months of protests, a concerning dynamic developed. People protested peacefully, while others engaged in dangerous activities that could have resulted in injury and even death.
The night of May 29 was a pivotal moment for our city. Hundreds of people, in a coordinated effort, attacked the Justice Center, which includes our Central Precinct station and the Multnomah County Detention Center. They broke into the building, destroyed the first-floor interior and lit fires. Afterward, there was looting and destruction downtown.
Yet in the following weeks, thousands of people demonstrated peacefully in an awesome expression of First Amendment rights. The Police Bureau had little to no interaction with members of this group, because they did not allow criminal activity to impede their message.May 29 was a long way back, but Lovell's account doesn't stop there. We weren't physically present in Portland. But the chief says these things occurred:
LOVELL: On one night, for example, individuals screwed the doors of our North Precinct station shut, barricaded other entrances and lit the station on fire with people inside. Nearby businesses, owned by people of color, were damaged and looted. On other nights, there were multiple attempts to breach the Justice Center. Other law enforcement facilities were targeted, including the union building, which was broken into and had fires set within.
Violence and destruction have also been directed at the federal courthouse, which sits next to the Justice Center. The president sent additional federal agents to Portland, and our city became national news.
During these events, our agency has responded to assaults, stabbings, shootings, people with guns and the stockpiling of explosives. Shooting off commercial-grade fireworks and mortars is not peaceful protest. We are fortunate that no one has been killed.We're not sure that our tribal news orgs tended to cite these events. Meanwhile, please note the importance of one key phrase—<i>commercial-grade</i> fireworks.
Our tribal news orgs tend to drop the term "commercial-grade." The omission tends to make attacks of this type sound amusing and twee.
That disappeared term can make quite a difference! When we discussed this topic last week, we cited what an AP reporter says he saw, late at night, while inside the federal building:
BALSAMO AND FLACCUS (7/27/20): Thirty minutes later, someone fired a commercial-grade firework inside the fence. Next came a flare and then protesters began using an angle grinder to eat away at the fence. A barrage of items came whizzing into the courthouse: rocks, cans of beans, water bottles, potatoes and rubber bouncy balls that cause the agents to slip and fall.
The [commercial-grade] firework came whizzing over the fence so fast that the agent didn’t have time to move.
It exploded with a boom, leaving his hearing deadened and bloody gashes on both forearms. Stunned, with help from his cohorts, he stripped to his boxer shorts and a black T-shirt so his wounds could be examined and photographed for evidence.
He told his fellow agents he was more worried about his hearing than about the gouges and burns on his arms.
By the end of the night, five other federal agents would be injured, including another who got a concussion when he was hit in the head with a commercial-grade firework. One agent was hospitalized. Several agents have lingering vision problems from the lasers.These commercial-grade fireworks today! All in all, that didn't sound very twee.
Even before we read that AP report, we were beginning to get the impression that reports of violence were being sanitized by our tribal orgs. As we say that, remember the question we asked:
We weren't asking if you thought attacks of that type were a good idea. We weren't asking if you thought the "pigs" were getting exactly what they deserved.
We were asking a different question. We were asking if you thought the Post and the Times, and our cable news orgs, were fully reporting this conduct.
More and more, the Age of Trump has become an age of total press corps tribalization.
We all know that their news orgs have lways behaved this way. More and more, we get the impression that our news orgs. are behaving the very same way.
Tomorrow: Same general idea!