(Post # 2,650) By Carol McCracken
“We promised to protect you, but that’s all over now,” said Police Officer Dan Adam to Iris, the liaison. from the protesters on Commercial Street to the Portland Police. “Get onto the sidewalk.” . No one budged. Itis, wearing a red band around her arm to distinguish her from others, reported the news back to the protesters.
The Police officer was referring to a group of protesters standing several blocks east in the middle of Commercial Street at Pearl Street chanting Black Lives Matter among others. The group in the street was “obstructing a public way,” because it had not gotten permits to be in the middle of Commercial Street according to a police officer at the scene. That was about 9:15 pm. last night.
Just moments before the driver of a red car drove up a side street onto Commercial Street heading east. Protesters began pounding on the car until the two police officers intervened and stopped the attack on the car. Several other cars had made their way along the same route earlier in the evening, but their route was not impeded by the protesters. That changed things. Shortly after the words between Officer Adam and Iris, a call was made to someone – probably Chief Sauschuck.
“We need assistance to make arrests,” was overheard by mhn.com Shortly thereafter, a crime scene unit truck pulled up. There several officers met inside for maybe half an hour. When they emerged, it was obvious a strategy had been developed. There was an urgency in the air lacking previously. Numerous officers appeared on the scene at the corner of Pearl and Commercial Streets where the taunting of the Police was in full swing. Officers on the scene agreed the protesters were trying to provoke their arrests, but they held off because there was a “delicate balance” to maintain.
The officers formed a tight ring around the protesters still illegally blocking traffic in the middle of Commercial Street. Bystanders began to close in wondering what would happen next. By 10:00 pm a paddy wagon backed up behind the protesters coming from the eastern end of Commercial Street. Officers began moving into the crowd picking out leaders of the protest and loading them into the back of the truck. Some protesters didn’t go easily and fought back against officers – once requiring three or four officers to contain one. After the vehicle drove off, remaining protesters began marching along Commercial Street again – chanting about the racist police, etc. But the evening didn’t end there. Oh no.
The remaining protesters marched up to Police Headquarters on Middle Street. There they stood in the middle of Middle Street yelling again. Cars were blocked from moving on Middle Street for 20 minutes or so. Protesters stood on the sidewalk and in the street in front of the Police Department – screaming – once again taunting the Police. When mhn.com left Middle Street at 11:45 pm., it appeared that the Police decided to ignore the protesters who had just a handful of watchers, although tv cameras and videos were still filming them.
The protest began in Lincoln Park where marchers gathered between 6:00 – 7:00 pm. Marchers left Lincoln Park, for which they also did not have the required permit to do, and walked down Pearl Street – chanting and carrying signs. They ended at Commercial Street where they began the protest that lasted far longer then anyone thought would happen.
Earlier, a rumor had circulated in the Old Port that protesters were going to block part of 295 starting at 6:00 pm in order to disrupt traffic over the weekend. Instead, businesses along Commercial Street were disrupted causing Stephen Joffe, who had been eating dinner at the new SOLO, in full view of the protest, to wonder: “What is the point being made? “Does this gain more support?.” Joffe said that he was 100% sympathetic to the Black Lives movement – who isn’t? But businesses along the waterfront strip were being hurt by the protest.
According to a press release, the event was organized by Portland Racial Justice Congress opposing the “senseless killing of black people, as well as a system that disenfranchises all people of color.”
City manager Jon Jennings issued a statement this morning expressing his pride in the “commitment and professionalism” of the Police Department in diffusing what could have been a much more serious situation in Portland. Figurehead Ethan Strimling has been AWOL during this crises in the city. No members of the City Council were seen during the standoff on Commercial Street or at Lincoln Park.