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NPR Worries Declaring Portland Unrest A ‘Riot’ Could Be Racist
PORTLAND, OR - AUGUST 29: A Portland police officer ties a police line around the scene of a fatal shooting near a pro-Trump rally on August 29, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. Far left counter-protesters and pro-Trump supporters clashed Saturday afternoon as a parade of cars carrying right wing supporters made their way from nearby Clackamas to Portland. (Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)
Nathan Howard/Getty Images

National Public Radio, which earlier in the week hosted a guest who defended looting per an earlier report from The Daily Wire, also fretted openly that labeling the three-month-long period of unrest in Portland, Oregon, a “riot” could be an example of internalized racism.

Portland has been roiled by protests and demonstrations, many of which turn violent after dark, for nearly 100 days. Saturday night, that violence erupted into bloodshed, as “anti-fascist” demonstrators allegedly shot and killed a Trump supporter who was attending a counter-protest.

“An apparent right-wing protester was shot to death on Saturday night in Portland after the city’s Democratic mayor refused federal assistance from the Trump administration to help maintain peace in the city, which has seen nearly 100 days of violent riots dating back to May,” The Daily Wire reported early Sunday. “The shooting happened after right-wing protesters drove trucks around the city with American flags and Trump flags and were met by far-left Antifa activists who blocked traffic and threw things at the vehicles, which often elicited a response from the vehicles.”

NPR noted that demonstrations in Portland have often turned violent and that protesters have attempted, many times, to burn buildings, including a federal courthouse, a police union hall, and a public safety building located in one of the city’s residential neighborhoods.

But because Oregon is a traditionally majority-white state, the outlet suggests, when Portland’s police department labels the unrest a “riot,” as they often do once violent action begins and before announcing that they will be clearing areas by force, they’re tapping into the state’s existing, systemic racism.

“Between May 29 and Aug. 27, the Portland Police Bureau declared 23 riots and 22 unlawful assemblies (that doesn’t include nights that started as unlawful assemblies and were later declared riots). But the laws governing those declarations are vague and have roots in Oregon’s deeply racist past,” NPR said Friday.

“Oregon began as a white-only state. While it banned slavery at its founding, the state adopted strict Black exclusionary laws which had been in place in the territory for decades. The law banned Black people from living in the state or owning property,” it continued.

Because recent “riots” have been, at least ostensibly, anti-racist, Oregon activists claim the “riots” are being declared to silence those who might question Portland’s law enforcement infrastructure. NPR cites as evidence a handful of riot declarations made in the past several weeks, few of which indicate a clear standard by which police determine a gathering has become a “riot.”

Protesters, many of whom are on video lighting fireworks, setting small fires in buildings, and throwing objects at police officers, say in some cases, a “riot” has been declared within minutes of a demonstration stepping off — a clear indicator, to them, that police are using the term to silence activists.

Sunday morning Portland Police say they’re continuing to investigate the shooting that left one dead. Reports indicate the police believe they have names for both the suspect and the victim, but they are waiting on confirmation before releasing that information to the public.

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