Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty has repeatedly asked Mayor Ted Wheeler (D-Portland) to make her the city’s police commissioner. But she effectively blamed the police for the deadly shooting of Trump supporter Aaron Danielson, also known as “Jay Bishop.” She claimed that protesters fear for their lives due to a “perception” of an “alliance” between the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) and “white supremacists.”
“As a child of the civil rights movement rooted in non-violence, to me, any loss of life is a tragedy,” Hardesty said in a statement on Sunday. “No one should fear that by expressing their constitutional right to protest that they may lose their life. The sad truth is though, we knew this moment would come. Every night I’ve held my breath that this will be the night someone dies — and yesterday it happened.”
“This fear is rooted in the inconsistent policies and messaging from PPB, this fear is rooted in a perception of alliance with white supremacists that has eroded community trust in PPB and this fear is rooted in the actions of PPB consistently treating [Black Lives Matter] protesters differently than the Proud Boys and other white nationalist groups,” Hardesty argued. (The Proud Boys bylaws explicitly exclude any white nationalists or white supremacists from membership.)
The commissioner insisted that her office is working on a plan to transition PPB leadership over to her and that she is looking forward to “the upcoming Fall Budget process where we can further reinvest in community safety and non-police crime prevention strategies,” i.e. shifting funds away from the police. Hardesty already worked with Wheeler to reduce police funding by $15 million.
In July, Hardesty blamed Wheeler for the extra federal law enforcement who defended the federal courthouse and she insisted that the antifa rioters wreaking havoc on downtown Portland were not protesters but plainclothes police officers.
“I absolutely believe that it is police action, and they are sending saboteurs and provocateurs into peaceful crowds so that they can justify their inhumane treatment of people who are standing up for their rights,” Hardesty argued. She claimed that plainclothes police officers, not protesters, have caused violence and started fires.
What, exactly, would Hardesty do if given the reigns over the Portland Police Bureau? She aims to defund the police force, to replace the department with “non-police crime prevention strategies,” and to continue to enflame animus against law enforcement.
Does Hardesty actually believe that plainclothes police are responsible for almost 100 days of violent riots? Rioters have set off commercial-grade fireworks, burning officers. At some point, the alleged plainclothes police saboteurs would stop engaging in this kind of violence against their fellow cops. It seems unlikely Hardesty actually believes such an outlandish theory. It also seems unlikely that she actually believes there is an “alliance” between the police and “white supremacists,” who are rightly marginalized in American society. Even the group she condemns as “white nationalist,” the Proud Boys, excludes them.
No, Hardesty must have another reason to spread such malicious conspiracy theories. It seems she seeks power through demonizing the police, without caring whether or not these crackpot theories will encourage rioters to throw more rocks, feces, or commercial-grade fireworks at the cops.
Indeed, the night after Hardesty’s remarks, antifa rioters carrying shields and wearing helmets, gas masks, and armor again attacked police officers, throwing rocks, eggs, and other projectiles and using pool noodles filled with spikes to puncture police car tires. The cops arrested 23 people, two of whom carried loaded handguns. One of those handguns was illegally possessed and resulted in an additional criminal charge.
When rioters engage in arson or other forms of violence, they are no longer “expressing their constitutional right to protest.” The Constitution protects the right to “peaceably assemble,” not to destroy property or put officers’ lives in danger.
It is truly terrifying what Democrats will excuse in their pursuit of power.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.