Portland residents worry about city’s image as civil unrest continues

West

PORTLAND (NewsNation Now) — Civil unrest simmered in Portland as more urgent concerns surfaced involving the weather as dangerous winds and fast-moving wildfires. But the more than 100 straight nights of demonstrating clearly left a mark on Portland and the state.

Every day, there are multiple scheduled events. Earlier Tuesday, there was a kids’ march and also Meditation for Black Lives. However, the images of violence keep drawing national attention.

Oregon’s biggest city sits proudly in the Willamette Valley. Its population of more than 650,000 is surrounded by incredible scenery and natural beauty. Portland has long been known for being quirky, artsy and active, with a history of political activism.

Images of protests turned to riots as the simmering unrest reached boiling points have become what Portland is known as of late.

A summer of rioting has been fiery, and even deadly, all sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May. Now, the signs of civil unrest are prevalent all over Portland. There is understanding, but also frustration and sadness, some residents say.

“It’s definitely going to take a long time to blur this image of Portland,” said Jo Ann Brinkman, a resident of one of Portland’s suburbs. “I really feel so sad about all the destruction, of that beautiful elk statue. That’s the one I will miss the most.”

Portland’s iconic elk statue that stood downtown for 120 years was removed back in July due to vandalism.

The city was already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic and a significant homeless problem when the demonstrations started.

While there is strong support for the Black Lives Matter movement and peaceful protests, many Portland residents feel rioters have ruined the momentum.

“For me, myself, the onus [is] on to me to show more of those peaceful aspect of things,” Portland resident and activist Peace Camp said. “Obviously, it does bother me but I’m human like everybody else so I would assume anybody from any other city, that would bother them if that was the representation of their city, right?”

Stuart Tichner co-owns the Urban Pantry, a new takeout restaurant in the popular Pearl District.
It finally reopened this week after a COVID shutdown to retool its operations. There’s concern since COVID and unrest have fewer people coming downtown.

“It’s gone off the rails, I think just the destruction of it, of our city, it’s affecting people that it shouldn’t affect essentially,” Tichner said. “What we’re seeing is that people are more afraid because of the news than what’s actually going on.”

While many stores remain closed and boarded up, far more are open with people socially distanced and masked. And away from downtown, people continue to enjoy the splendor of Oregon.

Portland native Leslie Black hopes the city’s image isn’t forever changed.

“I think it’s incredibly sad because it undercuts all the wonderful things that are happening. That’s the understory of all of this are people coming together to help each other rather than violence and divisiveness,” Black said.

Many say violent extremists are a serious problem and expect there will be more rioting. While unpredictable, the situation has Oregonians on guard and on the defensive.

“I want the country to know it’s safe to be here and that what they’re seeing is just a small microcosm that’s kind of edited to show a dystopian society which is not the case,” Tichner emphasized.

The office of Mayor Ted Wheeler did not respond to an interview request from NewsNation. But he has previously expressed condemnation for the violence.  

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