On August 22nd, 2020, Alan Swinney and other far-right extremists held a violent rally in downtown Portland. Gathering at what had been dubbed “The Injustice Center.” Proud Boys, Patriot Prayer, and police boosters wanted their chance in the sun so they came with flags, weapons, nail-studded shields, and bear mace. A lot of bear mace. During the rally, Swinney and others violently assaulted citizens and press. Clouds of mace filled the air and right-wing vigilantes fulfilled their LARPing fantasies and broke windows, fingers, and rampaged. While not arrested that day, Swinney is now in jail and facing multiple charges. That day has become an example of far-right violence in Oregon and its echoes still ring at the InJustice Center.
However, during that day, Mayor Wheeler and Chief Lovell were texting and minimized the violence. While journalists were assaulted by Swinney and his ilk, Wheeler mocked the media present and minimized their reporting.
But before we talk about Ted, let's talk about the day.
First off, Swinney had been planning this day for a while and he always wanted blood. The fact that there wasn’t more is a shock. Local journalist Sergio Olmos covered much of the action embedded in the front line.
The image of Swinney himself, pulling a pistol and aiming it at random citizens, was shared widely and became emblematic of the day. Sergio Olmos, an local journalist, documented much of the events.
The violence was not only directed at “antifa.” Press was also attacked. Robert Evans. a journalist for Bellingcat was assaulted, resulting in injury.
Not only was Swinney attacking and leading violence, Tiny Toese was in attendance despite a warrant for his arrest. Footage from the day also shows him walking directly by Portland Police officers who make no attempt at stopping him.
While PPB and Mayor Wheeler regularly call out the property damage resulting from Antifa and Black Lives Matter marches, little was said or done to prevent open attacks on private property by the far-right. Swinney was later indicted on 12 charges, related to these violent acts and threats. Why weren’t they stopped? Good question. “That day, Portland police said they were too short-staffed to move in to break up the fights(1).” Since that day, Swinney and other Proud Boys have been arrested and named in lawsuits totaling over $1,250,000. Shane Burley, expert on far-right extremism and fascism had this to say about the events of the day,
Not only were Proud Boys implicated, but in a letter from Swinney to supports he details how Sheriff Deputies were present and participating in the attacks.
Later, Radek Popisil (a Multnomah County Sheriff’s reserve deputy) was found to be supporting Proud Boys and fired. Swinney’s letter reveals it was likely more than support though it is not confirmed Popisil is the deputy referred to in the letter.
Now, let's talk about what Ted thought of this all. Was he being updated by Chief Lovell or his policy advisor Robert King? He was in a text thread with the Chief and other staff but rather than discussing the attacks, he chose to mock journalist Shane Burley.
While the press was attacked, Ted Wheeler made fun of them. Remember that quote from Burley?
“This is what we are dealing with from a Comms perspective. No surprise…,” says Wheeler.
The rest of the thread is here:
The Chief responds towards the end and refers to Swinney and the Proud Boys (joined by law enforcement) as “the patriot crowd”. This is the extent of the discussion for August 22nd.
It is shocking to see the utter disregard for safety from Mayor Wheeler. His staff minimizes the attacks and the Chief makes little comment besides calling assailants “the patriot group.” Ineffective as usual, we would laugh at his disconnection if it was not so serious. I am sure Burley or Evans or the many victims from that day would hope for better from our Mayor but by now, they likely don’t expect much.