By Jarrett Stepman | The Daily Signal
The city of Portland, Oregon, is a mess.
This week, the city witnessed a telling, if predictable, incident.
Police had removed a fence erected around the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse because it became a “symbol of divide” between law enforcement and the community, according to the Portland Police Bureau.
Rioters then descended on the federal courthouse and vandalized it.
— Camila Orti (@CamilaOrtiTV) March 12, 2021
Now the fence is back up.
So why did this happen?
Seattle radio host Jason Rantz explained the situation on Fox News Channel’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight”:
On Monday night, the federal government took down the boards and the fencing around the federal courthouse, which meant Antifa now had a reason to go ahead and attack it again. So, they quickly tried to put up those boards before the Antifa violence. The Antifa members showed up, took them all down, burned them, and caused the traditional amount of chaos that they do. Of course, in Portland, like so many other cities where this happens, the media there, for the most part, are calling riots ‘demonstrations,’ and they’re calling domestic terrorists simply ‘protesters.’
It seemed the left-wing radicals who had provoked so many violent incidents around the city weren’t too keen on having a “dialogue.”
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler came out and condemned the violence.
“The community is sick and tired of people engaging in criminal destruction and violence and doing it under the guise of some noble cause,” Wheeler said in a Monday press conference, according to The Associated Press.
But riots and vandalism aren’t the only issues facing Portland, and it’s hard not to see the policies and rhetoric of Wheeler and other Portland leaders as at least part of the problem.
In 2020, the city was hit with its highest number of homicides, 52, in 27 years, according to the Portland Police Bureau.
The trend isn’t abating.
Already, Portland has logged its 20th homicide this year. At this time last year, there was only one.
Portland’s downward spiral is only too predictable, given the city’s response to riots that took place following the May 25 death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.
Americans have a right to protest peacefully. But when those protests turn to violence, authorities have a duty to restore order and protect citizens’ rights of life and liberty.
But, as Lora Ries, director of The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Technology Policy and a senior research fellow for homeland security, wrote when Portland was beset by violence last year:
[A]ll too often, we see cities wracked by riots go the other way: cutting police budgets, ordering police to stand down in the face of criminal behavior, obstructing cooperation among state, local, and federal law enforcement—even barring police from showing riot video to the American people.
This is essentially the path Portland authorities decided to take, and we are seeing the fruits of those ideas now.
Violent crime surged in cities around the country in 2020, a trend that has bled into 2021. Tellingly, Portland suffered the highest spike in violent crime of any city in America.
Wheeler bent over backward to placate protesters. He even joined a protest in front of the federal courthouse at one point, and ended up being tear-gassed by federal agents.
It was clear, especially as mobs began attacking statues and buildings around Portland, that protests had turned violent.
Wheeler rejected aid from then-President Donald Trump and rebuked any suggestion that federal help might be necessary to restore order in his city.
— Mayor Ted Wheeler (@tedwheeler) August 28, 2020
So, what did the protesters do to reward this attempt at showing solidarity?
They turned on Wheeler.
A mob showed up at the mayor’s house, demanding he resign unless he gave into their demands. They even harassed him when he was out having dinner at a restaurant.
BLM-antifa extremists confronted Portland mayor Ted Wheeler while he was dining out last night. Serial-riot arrestee Tracy Molina was part of the mob. Shortly after this video, he was punched. #antifa pic.twitter.com/hcVWJdJKcd
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) January 7, 2021
Again, this appeared to be less of a dialogue and more of an angry, threatening hectoring.
The city not only was struggling to address the anarchy and destruction of the riots, it also was pulling resources from a heavily burdened police force.
The Portland City Council joined the campaign to “defund the police,” pulling millions of dollars out of the police budget and eliminating a gun violence prevention unit.
And here we are in early 2021, with riots increasing yet again and violent crime getting so bad that shootings in broad daylight don’t seem out of place.
Sgt. Kevin Allen, a spokesman for the Portland Police Bureau, said in an interview with Portland’s KOIN-TV/Channel 6 that the situation affects police officers who are “seeing the impact of this deadly, dangerous violence.”
“It’s terrifying when we go and there’s a house where someone lives and there’s bullets flying through it,” Allen said. “The officers are the ones seeing it and the fear in the community. And they want to see that number go down.”
It seems that some officials are recognizing that Portland’s policies aren’t working.
Wheeler recently called for adding $2 million to the police budget in what appears to be an attempt to “re-fund” the police. He also proposed creating a new unit to respond to gun violence.
This is in part why protesters besieged the federal courthouse this week.
Maybe this time the city won’t simply give rioters what they want.
If anything, this small move to refund the police is a signal, a concession, that the broad movement to “defund the police” has been misguided and that unaddressed violence leads only to more violence.
Portland serves as a warning to the whole country how quickly peace and security can disintegrate in the face of wanton anarchy.