Sunday, August 30, 2020

Escalation in Portland

If there is a point at which we realize we are taking our lives in our hands by just going downtown and marching in the streets, this might be it.

Last night a man was shot to death near the Justice Center in downtown Portland, where protests have been taking place every night for over three months. Details are still coming in, but it appears the deceased was a heavily-armed member of the far right. Another member of the far right was just arrested this morning in the working class Portland suburb of Milwaukie. He was arrested for having fired into a crowd the day before with live ammunition, apparently, in a separate incident from the killing at the Justice Center.

For those of you who might just be tuning in here, I'll try to set the stage.

Prior to Trump, prior to the pandemic, Portland was a city experiencing multiple crises, as with many other cities across the country, but perhaps more so. Between the last two censuses Portland lost more than half of its Black population due to gentrification, a phenomenon known to many as ethnic cleansing. During that time, Portland also achieved #1 status in the nation in terms of the numbers of Black people killed by the police, per capita. Portland also achieved the status as the most rent-burdened city in the country, as determined by the cost of rent relative to the average income of renters in the city. For many comfortable homeowners living in the hills of west of downtown and shopping in the malls of Beaverton, the reality that they were living in a city that was experiencing multiple acute crises may have passed them by. We live in a very divided city, in so many ways. Just take a day-long walk down Burnside Boulevard from the hills west of downtown to the desolate trailers in outer southeast, and you'll get the picture of the class structure of this society.

Prior to Trump, prior to the pandemic, groups like Don't Shoot PDX and a multiplicity of other networks focused on police brutality, institutional racism, gentrification and the unaffordability of housing for most Black and working class people were active on the streets, online, and in electoral politics. While the state government is dominated by the interests of big landlords, like the Democratic Party everywhere, in local government on the city and county levels, increasing numbers of solidly progressive people have been getting in, in the city council as well as among elected officials in the judicial branch, such as the District Attorney who just dropped the charges of so many protesters who have been arrested over the past months.

Long prior to Trump, Portland was a hotbed of conflict between fascists and antifascists, between militant believers in white supremacy and militant antiracists. As with cities like Minneapolis, there is a lot of history to this conflict. The streets of Portland, as with the streets of Minneapolis and other cities, were contested ground. Oregon was founded as a white homeland, and Portland was a national home to organized racism for a long time, until relatively recently, and the supporters of these groups have not all moved to Idaho.

The combination of Trump's election and the social forces he continually strives to unleash, the pandemic, the growing numbers of blatantly racist police murders across the country, the economic crash, the apparent withdrawal of any more real help from the federal government, and the complete incompetence and/or captured-by-the-landlords nature of the state authorities in Oregon and elsewhere, have altogether created a massive powder keg. Add to that a tremendous increase in gun sales over the past several months across the country, very much including Oregon. Add to that wannabe vigilantes speaking at the Republican National Convention, and real vigilantes in Wisconsin being praised by the president, with the blood still fresh on the streets of Kenosha.

OK, stage-setting over.

It's always been mythology that in the USA the First Amendment gives people the right to peacefully protest. It's always been mythology that when people commit acts of civil disobedience, such as marching or sitting down in the street, that they will generally be gingerly carried off with one cop taking each limb, carrying the arrested to an awaiting vehicle, and carefully placing them inside it. It's always been mythology that when there are two opposing groups of protesters, the police are there to act as a neutral party to keep them from hurting each other. Under certain circumstances, peaceful protests go off without a hitch, police escort marchers in the streets, and they keep protesters from killing each other, but there's nothing predictable about any of these things going that way. In fact, most often, they don't go like that at all, in Portland, or in most US cities.

And yes, most US cities are Democrat-run, as Trump is so fond of pointing out. There are reasons for that. Unfortunately, these Democrats, like their Republican counterparts, are largely also wealthy landowners, such as Mayor Ted Wheeler, and/or politicians paid off by corporations, incapable of doing anything more than mouthing progressive slogans while they screw the entire working class over and over again with their actual actions. And what is especially telling is that in these progressive hotbeds, the police forces are full of unaccountable human rights abusers and members of the far right, and most of each city's budgets goes to them every year. And despite the fact that these police departments are constantly losing lawsuits brought against them by the citizens they kill and maim, their killer cops not only almost never go to prison, but they almost all keep their six-figure jobs as our armed protectors.

While it is mythology that there's anything like a set of rules to adhere to for proper protesting etiquette, to avoid getting attacked by police or fascists, for example, or to get positive media coverage, or any media coverage at all, it is true that there are general tendencies in a given country at a given historical moment in terms of how things will go the vast majority of the time. And to the extent that it was generally the case that you didn't used to have to worry about people shooting at each other with live ammunition at protest rallies in front of a federal courthouse in the center of a city in this country a few years ago, this expectation is increasingly not valid.

Whoever shot the heavily-armed member of the far right downtown last night, the context was that other members of the far right were spraying crowds with gunfire, a massacre of protesters had just been committed in Wisconsin by a member of the far right, and hundreds of beefy white people with big flags throughout downtown Portland were involved with vehicular assaults on pedestrians and other vehicles, and lots of people were spraying each other with bear mace, hitting, and kicking each other.

Although no one has been killed by a politically-motivated leftwinger or anarchist in the United States in decades to my knowledge, while members of the far right kill us regularly at this point, if it indeed is the case that this man was killed in the course of a conflict with a counterprotester, this really shouldn't come as any surprise. Many people we might broadly define as antifascists embrace armed self-defense and do shooting practice regularly, from Anti-Racist Action to the John Brown Gun Club, and new groups like that seem to be forming daily, along with neighborhood associations forming for people to defend one another from the coming waves of evictions.

Knowing that the police are either unwilling or unable to effectively police events such as the Trump Cruise and ensuing urban combat that we saw last night, given that going downtown to protest, whether you're protesting in a way that the authorities deem to be “peaceful” or “violent,” you are risking your life by being there.



Of course, you're also risking your life every time you cross a busy street, or ride your bicycle down one. And when you're in a crowd of enthusiastic, community-minded protesters from all walks of life, of all ages, catching up with each other, playing music, shouting at the mayor, and taking over the streets, it's easy to feel invincible. At least for me it is. It's easy to rationalize away fear, and perhaps for some of us more than others, easy to feel like these bad things can't possibly happen to me. But if they happen more and more often, people start to change their orientation.

Standing on the precipice we're all standing on right now here in the USA, my mind delivers me historical parallels, as a sort of desperate measure, trying to make sense of it all. I'm not sure how relevant any of them are, but any of them might be. There are too many different factors that go into creating the future.

But at least in retrospect, some things seem clear. Retrospect is good like that. The massacres at Kent State and Jackson State, along with so many more killings by the authorities of Black radicals especially, in no small part gave rise to networks such as the short-lived Black Liberation Army and the Weathermen. Developments like these tend to reinforce the maxim that violence is made inevitable through the suppression of more peaceful means.

Similarly, in Northern Ireland there was a civil rights movement, that sought equality for the oppressed Catholic minority in the Occupied Six Counties. The movement was consciously modeled after the civil rights movement in the US. Like its counterpart in the US, it was met with tremendous violence, which ultimately took the forms of racist pogroms in 1969, the burning of hundreds of homes by anti-Catholic mobs, a massive propaganda campaign of fake news brought on by the authorities, vilifying the largely Catholic movement, and ultimately a massacre of movement organizers by British troops. All of these events of 1969 and 1970 ultimately led people to conclude that peaceful marches were not working if they would just end in massacres. And this understanding gave rise to the armed resistance movement that followed, which in turn gave rise to a conflict that took the lives of thousands of people over the following quarter century.

There are those examples of fires being fueled by the authorities. Then there are other examples, when governments with intelligent leaders who know they're in a race against time act decisively. A somewhat random example that comes to mind is how at the end of the Second World War, after years of a terrible occupation that involved a famine and many thousands of deportations and executions, with many more shipped off to work as forced laborers, after the Netherlands was liberated by Allied forces from Canada, the US, Poland and elsewhere, but also in no small part including by Dutch resistance forces as well, the first thing the government did when it came back from exile was collect all the guns that were now all over the country. They were desperately concerned that after all these years of Nazi occupation, there could be terrible conflict in society between those who resisted in some form, and those who collaborated to one degree or another. If there were to be such conflicts, they wanted to make sure that they did not involve firearms.

My orientation is admittedly Eurocentric. I've spent most of my adult life somewhere between North America and Europe, and much less of it anywhere else in the world. One of the guests I interviewed for one of my livestream shows/podcasts recently, an Argentinian anarchist and professor at the University of Massachusetts, Graciela Monteagudo, says the fascist comparisons aren't so relevant, that the divisions in US society and the incompetent, corrupt state ostensibly at the helm of it are much more like a typical kleptocratic banana republic than a well-oiled fascist fighting machine. 

Either way, if there is a point at which we realize we are taking our lives in our hands by just going downtown and marching in the streets, this might be it. What comes next, I don't know that anybody knows – I sure don't. I only know a little, mostly selective tidbits about what has happened before. The time and place we're in now is not like those other times and places, however. It's new, and in so many ways, as they never tire of pointing out in the news, unprecedented.


Saturday, August 15, 2020

Pandemic Panhandling

One story of surviving as an artist in the USA, from the collapse of the music industry to the housing crisis to the pandemic.

Occasionally, for one reason or another, I feel inspired to write an essay about my personal finances, mainly because, for me, it's an interesting perspective, the really up-close and nitty gritty one. But also these days, the plight of artists is often in the news, along with the plights of many other people, and I have been regularly getting messages from people who are concerned about my welfare in these times, and wondering how I'm doing. Sometimes they assume that because I'm doing a lot of writing and organizing around rent strikes and eviction defense, I must soon be facing eviction myself.

If you happen to be one of those people wondering about such things, but you're not interested in the lengthy explanation, the short answer is up til this point, me and my family are doing OK, with no imminent prospect for having to either sell or move into our car. We're able to pay for rent and food despite the lack of work, and although there has been very little in the way of government assistance we've been able to access otherwise, we do have free health care for the most part, here in Oregon, if you're poor enough to qualify, which we are.

For the more involved explanation, I'll start with a brief recounting of the situation for me and many other artists prior to the pandemic.

For those of us old enough to have been working as touring musicians in the 1990's, the music industry overall was about five times as big in 1997 as it was in 2017, when it finally stopped collapsing. From the major labels to the folks playing in the local pub, the whole industry has shrunk radically. Unevenly, at different times for different types of artists and to different degrees, but across the board. The main reason for this phenomenon has been the rise of the internet, and then particularly the unregulated corporate internet, and the rapid decline of the phenomenon of music fans purchasing CDs from artists at concerts, which is where the vast majority of such sales used to take place, among independent artists.

For me and many other indy artists I've talked to, 2013 was the year the floor totally dropped out of merch sales. It's not a coincidence that this was also the year Spotify launched the free version of their music streaming platform. Spotify perfected a sort of corpse-feeding version of a new music industry, very much like what Uber did to the taxi business – in both cases, operating on an industry-destroying, investment-sustained business model whereby they function at a loss until they take over the world in the process, with lots of political corruption and government connivance, from Sweden to the United States.

As this process was taking place, the cost of housing kept rising in most parts of the US, the UK, Ireland, Australia and so many other countries I'm personally very familiar with. The rise in the cost of housing has also been associated with the same sorts of predatory corporate consolidation and bribery of legislative bodies, a la Spotify and Uber, incidentally. Real estate prices have also affected the music venues, which have been rapidly disappearing, charging instead of paying, and/or relocating into smaller spaces. A concomitant phenomenon has been the disappearance of the once-lucrative college circuit.

The shrinking of the music industry has been reflected in other statistics aside the 80% reduction in sales overall. Between the 2000 census and the 2010 census, 41% fewer people claim to be professional musicians in the US. (And that's well before Spotify's free tier.) During that same period, between those two censuses, the city of Portland, Oregon also lost about half of its Black population, which is an interesting correlation. Basically, people who were living close to the wire before the turn of the century became unable to live here ten years later. You can be sure the same sort of pattern took place in many other cities at more or less the same time. As I sit here now in this two-bedroom apartment, it was recently announced in the business press that the average Black family in the US cannot afford to live in a market-rate two-bedroom apartment.

With this multiplicity of obstacles – to recap, half your income that used to be represented by merch sales disappearing, eventually be be replaced by minimal amounts of streaming income, while your housing costs double and your ability to make money from touring decreases due to the same housing crisis and its impact on small businesses – it's not surprising that so many artists, probably by now a solid majority of them, had to stop being professional artists, find another job or two, and turn their art into a hobby, when they have a chance to get to it.

A tiny percentage of artists who have produced multiple hits might be in a position to live off of royalties from radio airplay and Spotify. Those who essentially couldn't live off of 20% of their former incomes had to find other ways to make ends meet, as the living they were making in the 90's wasn't all that great, either. The main options were finding other jobs that they could do in between tours, to tour a lot more to try to make up for other losses, to turn to different forms of patronage – crowdfunding or grants or some combination thereof – or to throw in the towel.

I was personally sometimes able to crowdfund successfully enough to pay for recording projects, despite the loss of any income from selling the results in any form. I was never able to make up for the loss of income from merch sales collapsing, however, so rather than trying to tour more or get another job, I turned towards patronage in 2013, on the advice of a wonderful accountant here in Portland. I didn't realize it at the time, but retrospectively, it's not a coincidence that I started crowdfunding patronage, at first only through my own website, later also on Patreon and Bandcamp, in the same year that Spotify kicked off it's free tier.

As it happens, my pursuit of the patronage model just reached the point at the beginning of this year where, between the three aforementioned platforms plus streaming royalties, it adds up to rent plus food -- just before the arrival of Covid-19.

Ballad of the Oregon Employment DepartmentWhat has become abundantly clear since the pandemic hit is the fact that the level of success I've achieved with crowdsourced patronage – paying for rent and food -- puts me in a crowd of not more than 2% of formerly professional musicians out there. Everybody else had to tour, usually a lot, whether they wanted to tour that much or not, as I always also needed to do, much as I generally enjoyed it and look forward to someday doing more of it. And most of those artists also needed to work additional jobs aside from touring. Those who thought they had some kind of security because they had multiple sources of income – namely, income from touring, and income from working a service sector job of some kind – have discovered they didn't have job security in a pandemic after all. We hear every day from NPR and many other news sources about all the artists, service sector workers, and so many others who have been surviving from the extra federal pandemic $600 a week on top of what would otherwise be usually an insultingly tiny pittance from the state employment department, how tiny depending on the state – and that's if you qualify as a gig economy worker for such a privilege, which in Oregon, you did not. For those lucky enough to get through to the Employment Department and receive this federal money, it ran out at the end of July, and millions of people, be they artists, service sector workers, or a multitude of other professions who are out of work, talk about being on the edge of a financial cliff currently. For a staggering number of unemployed gig economy workers – still tens of thousands in the state of Oregon alone – money from the Employment Department has never come, after five months, and when we call, the line is literally always busy. (I wrote a song about it – “Ballad of the Oregon Employment Department.”)

As with so many other things, there is suddenly a much more widespread and much more talked-about awareness of how badly Spotify pays artists, how high the rent is, how much it costs in the US just to have internet access, and so on. Much more talked about is the fact that most artists aren't making a living at their art. I guess for a lot of people, including so many artists, it was just assumed that of course you were working a day job in a cafe in order to afford to do gigs in the evenings. But now it's been broadcast on Marketplace and elsewhere, it's official, they almost all have other jobs of some kind, and most of them have lost all of them.

With all this press came a flurry of donations to me and many other artists.  I don't know about everyone else, but for me they were significant.  They went a long way to make up for the loss of income from several canceled tours.  We did better than covering basic expenses, we even paid off half of our credit card debt.  The donations slowed down after the first couple months, and I imagine other artists also had this experience.  Which means they, and I, returned to what was the status quo after the pandemic hit, but prior to the flurry of donations.

In our apartment, we stopped paying the rent to our usurious corporate investor slumlord, The Randall Group, last April, because there is a suspension on evictions here, and out of solidarity with all those folks, such as the 98% of artists, by my estimation, who are currently unable to make ends meet unless they've got an inheritance, or a different job that didn't disappear when the pandemic hit. We take our rent money and put it into a savings account every month, on the assumption that we may eventually have to pay all or part of it, in order to avoid getting evicted.

People regularly tell me I'm very productive, with all the interviews I'm doing and songs and other things I'm writing during these past five months, since I canceled the tours I had planned in nine different countries. If that's true, it's only because I'm part of a tiny little privileged group of artists who is both willing to beg, and good enough at doing it online after years of trying, to eke out a living at it.

I'm hesitant to even admit to this accomplishment, lest it vanish. Perhaps somehow once the stock market finally crashes, my numbers of patrons will, too? But for the moment, despite the precariousness of my profession for so many others – a profession so precarious that few people readily even conceptualize it as such – I sit here with my little, now unschooled family in this apartment, and I feel like I'm standing on a nice green hill, watching the valley below burning. Which a valley is literally doing, not far to the east of here, just to illustrate the point.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Tear Gas Ted Has A Tantrum

If the Portland Police decide they need to start killing protesters, the mayor has just justified it in advance.

The liberal landed gentry dripping with multi-generational wealth and entitlement, as represented by Tear Gas Ted Wheeler, has made a pronouncement: the good folks trying to burn down the police station there in outer east Portland the other night were guilty of “attempted murder,” as twenty defenseless, though heavily-armed, police officers inside cowered and shivered and called their mothers to say their last words before meeting their terrible fates. I made the last part up, but he did say the attempted murder part, and there were twenty heavily-armed cops inside the building at the time of this latest attempt to take the building. He also referred to the police inside the building as “trapped,” although they could easily have rolled up their garage door and exited, guns blazing, at any moment. Maybe their riot gear would have gotten a little burnt, but they would have made it out OK from the looks of it. Unlike Tear Gas Ted, last month was not the first time in my life I've ever been to a protest that got messy, so I have some familiarity with these things.

I've long been a very cowardly anarchist, preferring to play music at protests and write articles about them, rather than throwing projectiles and setting fires. I have too many friends who have been killed, badly wounded, or sentenced to years or decades in prison because of carrying out actions like these, to want to participate in them myself. I make no illusions about it – I stay back from those situations because I don't want to face the consequences myself.

But, having said that, some of the folks in Portland throwing those projectiles and setting those fires listen to my music and follow me on Twitter, and they already know how much I appreciate their efforts and admire them in general. As the shrill noises coming from foolish people like our mayor grow louder here and across the country, distinguishing between so-called “violent” and so-called “nonviolent” protesters, with the latest line of alleged reasoning being that any white people participating in efforts to destroy or take over a police station must be provocateurs, and if they're not provocateurs then they must be trying to usurp center stage away from a Black-led movement, let me be one more voice to point out the following, whether or not the media takes notice: none of this discourse is new, and no one needs anyone's permission to burn down a police station.

A little recapitulation of recent and less recent history seems very much in order here, for context. Much has been said in alternative and corporate media in recent months about the racist history of policing in the United States, about the history of slave patrols, and about white mobs who committed massive and terrible massacres, killing hundreds of Black people and burning down thousands of buildings in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and so many other similar horrors. Much has been said about many other such atrocities committed by racist white mobs, as well as the even more tremendous atrocity of institutional racism, in all the many forms this has taken since and before the Civil War. It would be impossible to overstate how important it is that these things are being talked about, particularly if all this talk might actually lead to fundamental changes.

But the history of policing in the United States is not just about racism. This fact is being innocently ignored by people who don't know much about history, or have just learned about slavery, but have never heard of the labor movement – or it's being deliberately obfuscated by people who do know about history, and are intentionally using that knowledge to do exactly what the social construct of race was designed to do in the first place: to divide us from one another, and to set up a caste system through which we can then see ourselves as superior or inferior to other members of our society, to pit us against each other through impossibly unfair contests, with one side forced through unspeakable, daily brutality to work for free, with everyone else forced to compete with them or starve trying.

The standing armies of police forces in Boston, Lowell, Lawrence, New York, Paterson, Chicago, Milwaukee, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and so many other cities across the United States were not primarily there to police the Black population specifically. They were there primarily to serve the interests of landlords and industrialists – to serve the capitalist class. To keep the enfranchised enfranchised, and to keep the disenfranchised disenfranchised. This process involved committing acts of violence against a vast array of members of the working class on a daily basis, for centuries. Certain types of people have always been especially targeted for beatings, torture, exile, death, trumped-up criminal charges, trials with kangaroo courts, and filling the ranks of these people have been anyone who has dared to speak up for the interests of the suffering working class of this country, of this state, and of this city.

Oregon was founded as a white homeland, with exclusion laws both on the books and actively enforced. The state did not have a significant Black population until the labor shortage during World War 2. But Oregon most definitely was a class society, with the Timber Barons and real estate speculators on one end, and those hapless people living short and brutal lives in the timber camps or working in the mills on the toxic Willamette River on the other. And were there police? You bet. What were they doing? They were attacking anyone trying to organize any kind of serious resistance against the savagely unequal and exploitative status quo.

The police beat people with truncheons in Portland for speaking on the sidewalk. They savagely assaulted people for marching on the streets. They did their best, on a city level and ultimately, with the formation of the national police force known as the FBI in the early twentieth century, on a national level, to destroy the radical labor movement. This was their first and primary enemy. They lynched union organizers, hanging them under bridges. They fired into crowds of protesters, killing many, in repeated cases across the country. The paramilitary, anti-union and virulently racist American Legion burned down union halls in Portland and across this country.

And did everyone among the working class in Portland and other cities in the US take all this lying down? No, some did not. They fought back. The Industrial Workers of the World organized campaigns of resistance. Not just organizing workplaces, publishing newspapers and carrying out free speech campaigns, but they organized riot squads. These brave fighters for this proudly, self-consciously intersectional union movement physically attacked boat loads of scab workers on the Willamette, and drove them out of the city. They physically attacked the railroad bulls who had been constantly beating and intimidating organizers who traveled by hopping freight trains, in order to get the bulls to back off.

A lot has changed over the intervening century since those times, of course. The country now is more unequal than it has been since that period, but the labor movement is anemic, and doesn't have any riot squads anymore. After destroying the radical labor movement with a concerted campaign of terror, arson, mass arrests and deportations a hundred years ago, the FBI moved on to destroy other radical social movements, and they're still at it today. They love it when members of current social movements or remnants of past social movements, in some cases, argue with each other, and the argument over violence vs. nonviolence, and which forms of oppression social movements should focus on most, and how to have a truly ecumenical social movement, how to make real change – all this is very important, and none of it is new.

In the past few months an uprising began, in Trump's extremely failed state, in the midst of an out-of-control pandemic, sparked by a classically horrible, racist police murder in Minneapolis.

There have been other horrible, racist police murders captured on film in recent years. ICE has been kidnapping children and never returning them to their parents. A year ago there was a racist massacre committed by a white supremacist in El Paso, with 23 dead. There are, unfortunately, any number of horrendous events that could have set off this uprising, including several other vicious, racist police murders that were committed in the days preceding George Floyd's murder. It may be that the murder was particularly spectacular in its brutality, but leaving Michael Brown, Jr's body in the hot sun for hours after he was killed in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 is offensively gruesome to a possibly similar extent, and then there are those cages they're putting the children into in Texas.

As supremely horrible as the constant killing of Black people by police is, this reality was not the only relevant context in which to put the uprising that began at the end of May. It also began with mass unemployment and mass uncertainty about the future, where 1 in 4 children in the country are going to bed hungry, with tens of millions of people dependent on unemployment checks that often never arrive or have just been cut off, with tens of millions of renters facing the specter of their own eviction and the evictions of many of their neighbors. The society was in multiple states of crisis before the pandemic hit – crises which, as always, have class and race intimately intertwined. If most of those people in Portland facing eviction might be white, it's only because most of the Black population was already forced to leave the city because of the forces of gentrification represented by people like the mayor, and represented by the last mayor of Portland, not to mention the governor, and the liberal gentrifier-in-chief in the White House prior to the billionaire, during whose tenure our rents in Portland doubled.

The Portland police are, statistically, with the statistics sliced in many ways, one of the most racist, murderous police forces in the United States. But it is also the police force that is presiding over the rapid gentrification of the city, that sweeps the encampments of the evicted, the armed representatives of the corporations and banks increasingly taking over the city, who are always protecting the opposing side in any demonstration anyone has ever been to. They are a violent gang bent on repression in the name of plutocracy. And many people know this – it's kind of obvious.

So when people accused of being “outside agitators,” but who were somehow simultaneously present in every city in the country at the same time, spent several days smashing up downtown Portland, they were not committing acts of violence. They were destroying corporate property, and property of the forces of state violence. Property of the very corporations, and their armed defenders, who are actively causing such misery, imprisoning us on ridiculous charges, killing us, or “just” making us move back in with our parents or go get a second or a third job, and ruining any hopes that so many of us in this society might have once had for a decent future.

Oh, but you say there was an independent store damaged, too? Advice to the capitalists: if you want people to know you're an independent business, don't buy a fancy building in the most expensive part of downtown and call it One World Trade Center. People might mistake you for an evil capitalist, who knows why. In any case, this destruction of corporate property and police stations is what got people's attention in the first place, along with taking over highways and bridges – not the people standing in parks with signs, making speeches.

And now, with the voices of the wealthy, liberal elite and some of their allies denouncing what they call “violence” and “attempted murder” on the part of the young people intent on liberating this city of its occupying army that they call the Portland Police Bureau: while I don't speak for the folks who were at the police station in question the other night, the murderers are your police force. This is well documented. The attempted murderers include the yahoo who drove a truck into protesters just, what, two nights ago? The attempted murders are every eviction your thugs carry out and every tent encampment they destroy in the interests of your real estate speculator friends. Any system that does those things is a violent, brutal, murderous system that is desperately crying out to be destroyed. If you don't want your police stations to be burned down, one thing you can do is heed the will of so many of your constituents and abandon them. Hand in your badges and your guns to the Youth Liberation Front or Black Lives Matter, whichever you want. I'm sure no one will need your help figuring out what to do with the building, either -- whether it becomes a squat, a garden, or just an artistic pile of burnt-out rubble – which would, in any case, like the broken windows, plywood and spray paint adorning most of downtown, be very good for the property values around here, which are way, way, way too high.

A Tale of Two Narratives

Was it a peaceful gathering, a riot, or an insurrection?  That depends on who we're talking about, and who's talking about them. Eve...