Who shot the protester in Portland?

November 14, 2016

Christopher Zimmerly-Beck reports from Oregon on the worst violence yet from emboldened right wingers taking revenge on those protesting Donald Trump.

A PROTESTER was shot by a still unidentified gunman in Portland, Oregon, early Saturday morning in the worst violence so far as the eruption of nightly protests since the "election" of right-wing Republican Donald Trump continued into the weekend, with so signs of stopping yet.

The shooting came after a night in which police attacks on anti-Trump demonstrators grew more violent, too. During confrontations with marchers, the police themselves used rubber bullets and flash-bang grenades. This added to the atmosphere in which an apparent right-winger felt confident enough to fire a weapon as demonstrators crossed Morrison Bridge in the city's downtown.

The gunman reportedly got out of a car and fired at least six shots--then got back in the vehicle and sped off. Somehow, despite the massive police presence directed at the march, the shooter was able to get away. The shooting victim was taken to the hospital with "non-life-threatening injuries."

PORTLAND HAS been among the many cities that have experienced protests of hundreds and thousands of people each night since Election Day. The demonstrations have been hastily called, often by people with little experience in activism before, to show the shock and horror so many people feel at the outcome.

Thousands march in Portland, Oregon against Trump's reactionary agenda
Thousands march in Portland, Oregon against Trump's reactionary agenda

The protests in Portland can be described as angry but overwhelmingly peaceful. The city's political establishment initially allowed demonstrators to march without confrontation. But city officials seem to have lost patience quickly.

By Thursday of last week, the police and media were ratcheting up both verbal slanders and physical attacks on demonstrators. On Thursday night, police declared that the protest was a "riot" and began to use force to remove people from the streets.

Simultaneously, the mainstream media, from local news outlets to national papers, began to malign protesters as violent. The justification for this smear is minor property damage--some windows broken by a small minority of demonstrators.

The majority of people participating in the protests have argued against the small number of demonstrators who have engaged in spray-painting buildings or breaking windows. In fact, this larger number of protesters has gone so far as to raise over $30,000 to pay for property damage.

Those on the left who are organizing this new struggle should be able to debate both sides of this question: whether it helps our fight to engage in property damage, on the one hand--and whether other protesters should be devoting money to replacing windows on the other. But the fact remains that the majority of protesters have been peaceful and have tried to stop even minimal property destruction.

The shooting of a demonstrator early Saturday morning is a sign of both the confidence of individual right wingers and the impact of the state's violence against those who want to express their opposition to Trump. The protesters aren't to blame for the shooting, as some media outlets seem to claim.

Solidarity with everyone taking to the streets right now--as well as with all of those who will be harmed by a Trump presidency--is crucial right now. Our organizing needs to be directed toward winning more people to participating in struggles and organizations that have the size and confidence to confront the Trump assault--and ultimately the system that put him in power.

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