Antifa supporters and anarchists made no secret of their intentions or modus operandi in a New Year’s Eve riot in downtown Portland that seemed to finally wake up Mayor Ted Wheeler. The riots followed a night of rioting the previous night as well.
In announcing a crackdown, Wheeler said, “We need criminal accountability. We need to hold people responsible for their criminal conduct. It’s time to push back harder.”
The New Year’s Eve riot, in which about 100 people caused tens of thousands of dollars in property damage by starting fires, throwing fireworks, breaking windows and spray-painting, also saw Molotov cocktails thrown at a completely overwhelmed and inadequate police force that was forced by the crowd to retreat.
A mob of antifa pursued a group of retreating officers at the new year’s eve riot in downtown Portland last night. Law enforcement used pepper spray to try and stop them. pic.twitter.com/XDWn5HFs8n
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) January 1, 2021
The question is, where was Wheeler during the months of similar rioting? Even the night at the end of the summer when Antifa rioters specifically set Wheeler’s downtown 16-story apartment building on fire, police “stayed out of sight and monitored the situation from a distance” hoping to “de-escalate” the violence.
It is reasonable to assume that their orders were coming from Wheeler, himself. (Wheeler’s only measurable response to that incident was to move out of the building so other residents wouldn’t be endangered.)
Now Wheeler is calling for a crackdown. What are we to make of it? At a press conference on New Year’s Day, Wheeler announced a three-point plan:
- Convening a meeting of federal, state, county and local law enforcement “to deal with anarchist violence as soon as possible”
- Asking the state legislature to increase penalties for repeat offenders
- Having those convicted of criminal destruction be required to meet with those whose businesses they damage as well as do public service
Let’s address each of these points in terms of their effectiveness:
Convening law enforcement
Convening law enforcement will do nothing to stop the violence unless they are empowered to do something about it. Wheeler and other mayors must make a choice – a potentially ugly but short-term, forceful operation by authorities on the ground or a continuation of the violation of the rest of the citizenry’s civil rights.
While it is hard to believe that the citizenry is not outraged by Wheeler’s ineffectual response to the months of destruction of their city and businesses, one can only come to the conclusion that that is the case.
In November, voters reelected Wheeler to the mayorship, giving him 46 percent of the vote. As reported by OregonLive, “Wheeler’s financial support from the business community and votes from older city residents and residents of Portland’s west side handed him a rare second term.”
Given his political support, it is doubtful that Wheeler will make any meaningful crackdown on the ground.
Increasing penalties for repeat offenders
Despite the mayhem on New Year’s Eve, only three people were arrested, making this part of Wheeler’s plan a moot point. Lack of arrests has been the pattern of the months-long Antifa riots in Portland and other locations, as well. In addition, the few that are arrested are soon released, often without charges.
Asking the legislature for stiffer penalties for repeat offenders is fine but it doesn’t address the problem of why the majority of offenders are not brought to justice in the first place.
Having offenders meet their victims face-to-face
Of all of Wheeler’s propositions, this idea speaks to the cause of his ineffectual leadership – a lack of understanding of the real ideology behind Antifa.
At the press conference, Wheeler stated the following – a sentiment to which everyday citizens can certainly relate:
“It’s hard for most of us to even comprehend what goes on in the heads of people who think it’s OK or a good idea to go on a violent rampage through the city on New Year’s Eve and during a pandemic.
“Why? This is the hardest question of all to answer. Why would a group of largely white, young and some middle age men destroy the livelihood of others who are struggling to get by?”
Although he stated that he condemns “anyone who engages in criminal destruction, no matter what their ideology,” Wheeler clearly does not understand that destruction is their ideology.
Moreover, despite months of rioting, it would appear that the reason that Wheeler promoted policies to let the offenders escape justice was specifically because he supported what he thought was their ideology.
Proof that his vision of Antifa’s ideology was based on fantasy can be found in the following statements by Wheeler made at the press conference:
“My good faith efforts at de-escalation have been met with ongoing violence and even scorn from radical Antifa and anarchists,” he said.
“It is hard for me to accept that there are some people who are just bent on destruction.”
Yet, that is what Wheeler must do to if he intends to wage an effective battle against Antifa. Accept the fact that Antifa is not an organization that responds to “good faith” overtures and that it is an organization dedicated to destruction. By all indications, this may be an impossible task for him.
See also Clarion’s report: Guns, Police & Fear: How Antifa is Changing the Face of America