Story by Nicholas Headon
Portland mayor Ted Wheeler has had enough. This morning, in a hastily called press conference in front of City Hall, Wheeler announced a new policy that would begin removing all guns within Portland’s city limits.
“Enough is enough,” said Wheeler. “I am sick and tired of seeing our young people gunned down and then having the terrorist organization known as the NRA (National Rifle Association) stand up for the right of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and friends to bury their children, siblings, and other loved ones whose bodies have been riddled and shredded by bullets from weapons that have no place in a civilized society, or even ours. Today, I am enacting a zero tolerance policy for guns in our city, and I will be leading a group of mayors and governors demanding that policy be expanded.”
That initial declaration came as no surprise. Following the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida where 19 year old white supremacist Nikolas Cruz murdered 17 people with an AR-15 rifle, people around the country have renewed calls for gun control. An AR-15 is a military grade rifle which can be purchased nearly as easily as a pack of chewing gum, and its bullets can render a human body into hamburger flecked with shards of bone.
Following Cruz’s massacre, the NRA doubled down on its efforts to make sure white supremacists were assured of their Second Amendment rights, including an internet commercial with unhinged NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch threatening pretty much anyone who dared oppose the terrorist organization which employs her.
As with Wheeler’s initial proclamation, this too came as no shock. The NRA, which always goes silent when the rights of non-white people are violated, is essentially a white supremacy lobbying group. The Second Amendment, which the NRA seems willing to protect only for white people, has its roots in white supremacy. That amendment was written for the benefit of slaveowners who feared slave revolts. Following the Civil War, terrorist groups dedicated to upholding white supremacy, such as the Ku Klux Klan, continued this rhetoric and used the right to bear arms to uphold their self-perceived right to white supremacy.
But Wheeler, who during the press conference also noted the Sandy Hook Massacre which took place in 2012 at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut and resulted in the deaths of 20 children between six and seven years old, as well as six adults at the school, went a shocking, if completely logical step further.
“It is not enough to make sure we take guns out of the hands of individuals who endanger our children and our communities,” Wheeler stated. “We must also remove guns from our police, who arguably pose the greatest danger to those children and their communities. Police are an extension of the ante-bellum slave patrols and the various white supremacist groups that proliferated following the Civil War. Despite the fuzzy and cuddly rhetoric of Officer Friendly, the primary function of police as an institution is not to remove cats from trees, but rather, to keep under control, often through extreme violence, various populations–particularly Black people–who might rise up and threaten the status quo. That is literally our history of policing. How many of you know that Oregon was a free state during the Civil War not because it was opposed to slavery? Oregon was founded as a white utopia: its so-called founders wanted no Black people at all, free or slave. None. There are often presentations about this often and willfully ignored history of Oregon, and it behooves us, at least if we want to be anything resembling a responsible citizen, to understand and engage Oregon’s white supremacist history and the role of police in upholding white supremacy.”
Wheeler then ran down a list of people whom the Portland police had murdered over the years. Those names, which should be familiar to Portlanders, included Kendra James, Deontae Keller, Quanice Hayes, Santiago Cisneros, Aaron Campbell, Keaton Otis, James Jahar Perez, and James Chasse. In these cases, along with many others over the past 40 years, the murdering police officer has rarely been held accountable.
“We don’t need more police in schools,” intoned Wheeler. “We don’t need more police on our streets. And don’t need police militarized like they are an occupying army, which believe it or not citizens of the whitest city in the United States, it is to many people who are not white. And for the record, if you’re the type person who shows up to rallies when white people are shot, but scoffs at rallies declaring that Black lives matter too, then you have some thinking to do. Ditto if the massacre in Parkland, Florida bothered you, but you have no problem when US soldiers do the same thing to people in Iraq, Afghanistan, and wherever else we claim we are spreading freedom. If you really believe life is sacred, this should be obvious. Just some thoughts on this Easter morning that maybe we should work on keeping the Christ in Christian.”
“And by the way,” the mayor continued, “what the hell is wrong with the superintendent of the Portland Public Schools? Why has that teacher at Ockley Green Middle School–I think his name is Chris Riser–been placed on administrative leave? He took part in a school walkout in support of the family of Quanice Hayes, the young Black man who last year was murdered by the Portland police. It is probably one of the most valuable lessons a teacher could impart upon students–young students in a country that last I checked still has the gall to run around and declare it stands for justice for all. We should be honored to have him teaching our children. He belongs in the classroom. Now.”
Wheeler then called out both himself and the police for their support of white supremacists at rallies. “Just across the street from us, in that federal park, a bunch of Nazis held a rally last June. While I respect the First Amendment’s guarantee that no political speech will be impinged upon by government–cough–paging Eugene Debs–cough–I should never have allowed our police to be used to provide those Nazis with protection. I am–and we all should be–embarrassed that we not only protected Nazis in this putatively most liberal of places, but that our police were actually seen accepting help from those same white supremacists when they arrested counter-protesters who heroically infiltrated the white supremacist rally and tried to disrupt it. Yeah, those were the heroes–the ones who on that day occupied this space right here and the two or three blocks across on sidewalks near the Justice Center, as well as the folks from Antifa who held down Chapman Square. They all came out to stand against people whose very same ethos led to the Holocaust.”
“Meanwhile, I, to the great approval of many other liberals–and I assume the majority of those who call themselves conservatives–provided police support for the white supremacists. Let’s be honest: we were good Germans, and we must stop blindly supporting the police who are little more than a well-armed, barely regulated, officially sanctioned, and usually unaccountable militia whose function is to uphold white supremacy.”
Wheeler, whose time as mayor has seen an increase in aggressive policing toward demonstrators–outside of those organized by white supremacists–continued, “I have to take a large part of the blame for the actions of the police, both in their use of militarized weaponry, as well as allowing them to be there protecting these Nazis. I am in charge here, and I am supposed to be a leader, not simply a politician with greater ambitions than Mayor of Portland. But I failed you, people of Portland. I gave the police the leeway to use violence against you. I will not let that happen again. As of today, they will no longer have access to guns. Those guns, as well as the higher grade military equipment, will be taken out of their hands.”
Wheeler said the first confiscation would be Captain Mark Kruger‘s Luger P08. When asked for comment, Kruger, who at the time was on a walk around Rocky Butte Park, was clearly caught off balance by both the announcement from “der Bürgermeister,” as well as the ceremonial role he will play in the new policy.
“Was ist das für Scheiße?“ asked Kruger.
When asked what would become of the other police weaponry, Wheeler replied that communities of color around the city would be gathering together to make that decision. A reporter from the Oregonian then asked why no white people would be involved.
“Look, I really don’t think people of color need any input from white people about how they should run their lives or communities. We’ve done enough damage. And until we get around to paying reparations, the least we can do is stop telling them we know better what they need than they do. We’ve created these problems. We are the ones who allowed for slavery. We are the ones who allowed for Jim Crow. We are the ones who allowed people of Japanese ancestry to be put in government incarceration camps. And we are the ones who allow police to brutalize and murder people of color. So I should think it obvious as to why I am not having white people involved in the process.”
Wheeler, who said that the proposals of those communities of color would become the template for the policy he and his group of mayors and governors would push to be enacted on a national level, also stated that he supported “real community policing.” As with dealing with the Portland Police’s military-grade hardware and other weaponry, he will rely on communities of color to figure out what that new policing will look like. “Again,” he said, “we have done enough damage, and it is time for us white people to listen–shut up and listen–to communities of color, and follow their lead. I look forward to listening to them and following their recommendations.”
The same reporter began asking why white people should not be involved with deciding what the new policing system would look like, but Wheeler cut him off with a chop of the hand.
“What do you not understand about this?” he asked with clear irritation in his voice. “We white people created this mess, this terrible, awful, horrible mess. This bloody mess. If we really want to solve the problem, we need to stop creating the problem, and we need to stop being part of the problem. Now.”
Wheeler then shook his head in exasperation, muttering, “Portland, goddamn.”
Since the 2016 presidential campaign which catapulted Donald Trump into the White House, there has been a significant increase in both white supremacist groups and those groups feeling emboldened to express their hatred publicly. Portland has seen more than a handful of these rallies. When asked why he thought this was so, Wheeler replied, “Well, the simplest answer is Donald Trump. I mean, the guy began his campaign by saying all Mexicans were rapists and drug dealers. He later backed that one down, maybe limiting it to 98%. His assessment of other non-white people is more or less the same.”
“But let’s be honest here,” the mayor continued. “He is not spreading seed on fallow ground. He is merely watering and fertilizing a long and well-tended garden. That fertilizer is from the chickens coming home to roost. White people, particularly white men, are understandably scared. They are losing their favored space in society. Their privilege, which they perceive as honestly earned is only a product of our governing institutions which are literally founded upon white supremacy. The Constitution was signed by a group of white men, nearly all of whom were slaveholders. The land we stand on was violently stolen from the indigenous people. When you get a chance look up ‘redlining.’”
“Now their privilege is eroding as capitalism turns on them. That whole white, macho, male bullshit? Fading. And when you have been told that you have earned your way to the top, despite all evidence to the contrary, it is scary to see it falling away.”
“You then have some choices to make,” continued Wheeler. “And frankly, our education system–which includes those of you here from the corporate media–does not equip most people to make them. In an education system that was truly founded upon and meant to uphold and advance democratic principles, we would not equate capitalism with democracy as we do, but rather, see them as opposites. Of course, capitalists don’t want you to see their vicious opposition to democracy, so they get people scared of immigrants, Black people, other people of color, socialists, communists, and whatever else frightens people into upholding and protecting a system in which they should have little interest other than burning it in a trash bin.”
By this point, many members of the gathered media had begun uneasily shifting their feet. But Wheeler kept on. “It’s a lot easier to blame something tangible. You can’t touch capitalism, even if you easily see its ramifications. So you blame Black people, folks without documentation, people who identify as LGBTQ, Muslims; etc. Really, this is right out of Nazi Germany. Isn’t it Hermann Goering who at the Nuremberg trials talked about how easy it is to get people to do what their leaders tell them, no matter how awful? In his case he was talking about going to war, which should be–should be–the most difficult decision a society makes. I think he said that all you needed to do was tell the people they were under attack by those who opposed war. Goering was not just talking about Nazi Germany. He said it was the same everywhere. That same principle–blame other people, ignore the system–is used here, to great effect. It’s horrifying.”
“Donald Trump does this as does the Republican Party by and large. So do the Democrats, although in much gentler, more soothing tones. Didn’t Bernie–bless his cranky, old pasty white soul–talk about wanting to help all the Black kids that were hanging out on the corner? Think about that. That was the progressive hero of the presidential election season. He had some great ideas–we could desperately use them–but he basically said he wants to help those shiftless Black people who do nothing but collect welfare checks, and–as our Hot Spot Enforcement Team and current Gang Enforcement Team which was created to specifically oppress Black people and other people of color might say–look like they could be gangsters, particularly if wearing hoodies. That went over the heads of most people, and for others, it was just another liberal day at the office. You know, ‘Let’s forget about that for now, you can’t have the perfect candidate; etc.’ Whenever I hear that, it always seems the emphasis is more on ‘can’t’ than ‘perfect.'”
Wheeler then apologized to the City Attorney’s office for likely bringing upon it a lot of work from families who will now likely sue the Portland Police Bureau and the City for “clear and willful violations of people’s rights, particularly those of non-white people” as well as people in psychological distress or appearing to be in psychological distress.
However, he also told them to think of it as a form of job security. “Don’t worry,” Wheeler said, looking in the direction of City Attorney Tracy Reeve. “We will only be providing our support and services for those bringing suit against the City for the actions of our police. That’s called taking a small but necessary step toward justice.”