Portland meltdown seems imminent
The collective nervous breakdown of Portland known as the Adams administration is on full display now. We're a million dollars of police overtime into the Occupy Show, and there's no end in sight. Scores of the unemployable young "creative class" people that the city has been killing itself for years to attract are now blocking the streets, more than a little disappointed at how their lives have turned out. And day after day, they're deliberately coming nose to nose with the city's unstable, and often mean, police force.
The prevailing figure of authority is a mayor with serious personal problems, who stole his office and commands respect from no one outside his circle of minions. The primary credential of the police chief, who has picked this time of crisis to start running for mayor himself, is being in a rock band with the class bully of the City Council.
What a time for a nationwide wave of civil disobedience to reach Puddletown.
Yesterday, in the course of 48 arrests, things started getting rough. Outside one bank, the police whacked several young people with their batons, far more aggressively than they had at the parks over the weekend, and they also broke out their beloved pepper spray. Here's a telling photo, which instantly went viral, of one young woman getting it right in the kisser. It could be the news picture of the year locally, and it will probably make it onto some national year-end "best" lists as well. It's the Tiananmen Square guy, Portlandia style.
To the protesters, it's all in a day's work, and since no one's gotten punished for anything yet, they'll continue to antagonize the police. It's obvious that they're enjoying baiting the riot squads, and blaming them on the video cams for every bump and bruise that they go home with. Meanwhile, the cops, although loving the overtime money, are obviously stressed and losing their patience. Some of the force that the police used yesterday exhibited a new level of violence. As the PoPo have repeatedly shown in the past, the sky's the limit in that department.
A thoughtful reader commented on this blog yesterday that he felt that something really bad is about to happen on the Portland streets. We wish we could disagree, but we can't. More and bigger trouble surely looms ahead. If nothing else, a fatal traffic accident seems a real possibility, with protesters roaming the bridges and the transit mall accompanied by inane "bike swarms." Some Christmas shopper in an SUV from the suburbs, or some angry Tri-Met bus driver, could very well take somebody out some dark afternoon. And if yesterday's newsreels haven't already killed off the holiday retail season downtown, impossible traffic in the "Occupied" zone will surely do so.
The City Council spent all day Monday patting itself on the back for how swell the Occupy response went last weekend -- it took only 24 hours to clear out two city blocks, and nobody got seriously hurt. Their tune will be a little different next Monday. And the Monday after that.
As with the nonexistent economy in Portland, the politicians here will blame national forces beyond their control for the breakdown of the social order. To some extent, they're right. But the arrogant immaturity and sore lack of judgment at City Hall aren't helping matters any. The current crisis demands, at a minimum, grownup leadership. And alas, the city doesn't seem to have much of that on hand.