Although the fact that Random Order Cafe was closed on Christmas Eve made it more difficult — indeed, Dave Westerlund missed the meeting, even though he arrived at 6:26 p.m. — Herschel Soles and Your Intrepid Reporter conferred across the street for an hour.
The main topic of our consultation was the present state of disarray within the progressive movement of our city. This week, as we both noted, Black Lives Matter publicly accused Dont Shoot PDX of a series of deliberate actions hindering the movement for police accountability in Portland. In their own words,
We are publicly requesting that this behavior stop: Do not threaten us with violence. Do not allow white folks or any allies affiliated with your organization to threaten us with violence. Do not represent yourselves as members of our organization. Do not call members of our organization collaborators, federal agents, or police. Do not spread falsehoods about our behavior or organizing. Do not attempt to co-opt the name or work of our organization.
We do not have to work together. We don’t even have to like each other. But we will not accept interpersonal violence in this movement.
This statement is signed by all members of Black Lives Matter Portland, an unapologetically Black-led collective of Black women and gender variant folks working for the liberation of all Black lives worldwide.
Neither of us knew much about the details, but both of us were impressed by the virtually immediate endorsement of the statement against DontShootPDX by former Oregon Representative and current chair of the Portland NAACP, Jo Ann Hardesty. Our own organizational efforts have been hampered, as well, by inexplicable actions by what one would have expected to be our natural allies. Specifically, Herschel spoke of the experience he had, with Portland Copwatch, where the Portland Alliance was locked out of the building the two organizations shared. At the time Herschel served as the chairman of the board of directors for the Portland Alliance newspaper, and he has reservations about the effect of Dan Handelman’s highly questionable behavior in that incident.
Your Intrepid Reporter shared his own discouraging experiences with Dan Handelman, but he urged Herschel to chalk up the differences as due to ignorance on Handelman’s part of the consequences of his dictatorial tendencies.
In fact, I was joined by Dan Handelman the following day, today, Christmas Day, at the Friday Afternoon Anti-war Witness at Pioneer Courthouse Square; he was welcome, too.
Everyone wants these divisive issues to go away; but they do not. The policy of the Cascadia Chapter of the Pacific Green Party is, rather, to think carefully about what caused the schism. We are pretty clear about Portland Copwatch: it does invaluable work on documenting the need for police accountability in Portland, yet stops short ever of demanding that cops expect to get shot at without thereby receiving a free pass when they feel endangered.
The considered policy of the Cascadia Chapter has been the same for years: the police officer who loses the life of a citizen in his or her custody should normally lose his or her job. Herschel spoke of his own situation when he was a school bus driver; were a student to complain about his inappropriate speech while working as a bus driver he would lose his job; similarly, as a former Portland Public Schools teacher, I could testify to the fact that one or two girls claiming inappropriate behavior on my part, as a teacher, would have meant that I’d have had to find another job. It’s simply the conditions of the job.
The solution to police misbehavior is not better training: in general, the training is semi-reasonable; the accountability expected of all other professionals is absent in police work. State law supports this impunity, and ought to be changed; but the first thing to address is the attitude, and that includes the attitude of those who are agitating for police accountability. We have thousands of unfairly imprisoned citizens in our prisons, put there in large measure to enforce the unquestioning obedience by citizens, under all circumstances, of the police. It is the basis of our militarized police state.
We need to speak the truth: Portland Copwatch, under their hard-working, knowledgeable but bossy chief Dan Handelman, has never demanded clear accountability. Its recommendations almost exclusively focus on semantic details, thereby obscuring the point. Here is a recent example.