While protests are a threat for several American cities, Portland, Ore., residents and business owners are dealing with them on a regular basis.
On Wednesday night, downtown Portland experienced significant acts of vandalism related to the ongoing unrest. While retailers in areas of downtown have been hit repeatedly in recent months, this time vandals broke windows and caused other crimes in the city’s Old Town and the Pearl Districts. The latter is known for its once-buzzy restaurants and shopping. The Portland Business Alliance shared with its members Thursday morning a briefing from Lieutenant Jacob Jensen, acting captain of the central precinct for the Portland Police Bureau. He advised, “If you hear of people who were victims of this crime, please encourage them to call non-emergency to file a report. Similarly, if you know of people who have footage of these crimes taking place, please encourage them to call non-emergency so we can preserve it as evidence. In addition, we will have several officers in the area soon whose mission will be patrolling the area and proactively looking for victims.”
The latest round of vandalism impacted several small businesses, retailers, restaurants, and places of worship and service. Many had their windows broken in downtown Portland. The Portland Police Bureau reported that 12 people were arrested for various crimes during what police officials described as “a riot.”
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The PBA’s president and chief executive officer Andrew Hoan said, “I find it beyond comprehension that anyone would continue to think that the destruction of our small businesses in downtown Portland is somehow acceptable or represents the exercise of free speech. These destructive acts of political violence must stop now. I hope every elected official will react and denounce this reprehensible behavior, just as vehemently as when our beloved Oregon Historical Society was attacked.”
Amy Lewin, a PBA spokeswoman said, “We’re a very walkable city. There are 250 odd blocks in the central part of downtown Portland. There were peaceful protests Wednesday night. But then there was this small group that walked from the waterfront up to 10th, which is about 10 blocks, and then in towards the [Multnomah County] Justice Center. They did a route that they haven’t historically done in past walks through downtown. They happened to have hit a cluster of small businesses that are part of that core that make Portland’s small businesses so special. It was unfortunate.”
Portland Police Bureau chief Chuck Lovell said as the second group marched south, “We witnessed widespread violent behavior such as the destruction of property, smashing of ATMs, shattering windows of many businesses and intimidating behavior. This prompted an unlawful assembly and later a riot declaration as the criminal behavior escalated…While it is unfortunate that vandalism occurred, response from law enforcement prevented further, more significant crime such as looting and arson.”
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency and deployed the Oregon National Guard — the second time that she has done so in the past two months. About 50 members of the National Guard reportedly took to the streets to contain the situation Wednesday night. They were not armed, according to police officials. Members of the guard will remain on standby at least through Friday.
Home to brands like Nike and Columbia Sportswear, Portland is a mecca for outdoorsy and active residents. While many companies have extended their work from home policies indefinitely, Portland’s small businesses have been severely impacted by the pandemic shutdown. The added layers of frequent protests — some peaceful and others not — have deterred many residents from frequenting area stores and restaurants. In a post on its site, the Portland Business Alliance noted that many businesses are still open in downtown Portland and “are just trying to survive amidst a multitude of challenges our city has faced over the past several months due to COVID-19 closures and extended political violence.”
The PBA also posted, “In a very Portland moment, we are also hearing heartwarming accounts of people helping each other and our city’s beloved small businesses put the boards back up on the windows and secure their spaces.”
Members of the Downtown Retail Council, Downtown Portland Clean & Safe and other agencies started responding to requests to help those in need Wednesday night. Retailers and business owners located within the Downtown Portland Clean & Safe District, who need help with non-emergency issues outside of their buildings have been encouraged to report their problems. The Downtown Portland Clean & Safe District provides essential services to the people, places and businesses within a core 213-block area of Portland. Operating since 1988, the district is one of the oldest and largest successful enhanced service districts in the nation.
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