In the days when you could still watch a nature documentary without feeling as if you were sitting through a politics lecture I saw footage of a pack of smaller predators taking down an elephant. At the time I remember thinking: ‘Why don’t you keep running? Why don’t you knock the first one off and keep going?’ Strangely, I thought of that elephant again in the very different savannah of Portland, Oregon.
In recent years this city in the Pacific Northwest has become famous for a variety of reasons — none of them good. As one long-term resident said to me last week: ‘This used to be a very civil town.’ Not any more.
Of course, like every city in the west, the madnesses that already existed here have been exacerbated by the coronavirus and the ensuing decision to lock down the population and shutter the economy. As in cities across the UK, the businesses here are mainly closed, many for good. Some were able to get through one lockdown but very few can get through multiple lockdowns or the depression to come.
As a result, downtown Portland is a desolate, dangerous place, populated by homeless people who flooded into the area over recent decades, incentivised by left-wing administrations that allowed them to pitch their tents wherever they liked. In the main squares, unattended tables of food and drink are set out for them to pick at.
But it isn’t just the virus or the reaction of the authorities that led to this wasteland. The giveaway is the status of the few shops that are still open. Almost all have hardboard affixed to their remaining windows. Some have bullet-holes in them, not fired by the police. The businesses that do still operate do so as in a city under siege.
Portland has been the epicentre of a confusion that has afflicted a smaller number of activists in our own country. That is the taught perception that they live in a patriarchal, unequal, cis-heteronormative, irredeemably racist society. In time this defamation sank in and caused a reaction. For years, the city has seen regular rioting by the far-left group ‘Antifa’. In the name of pursuing non-existent fascists these activists laid waste to their city, dragged passing motorists from their cars, hospitalised journalists whose reporting was disobliging and otherwise turned the city into a first-world slum.
After the death of George Floyd at the end of May, protests in Portland were among the most violent in the US. They are still going on. The left-wing mayor forbade the police from working with the federal authorities to act meaningfully against the rioters and at the forthcoming mayoral election the only candidate running against him is an open supporter of Antifa.
Recent successful operations carried out by this candidate’s favoured militia include the pulling down of almost every statue and public monument in the city. The weekend before last it was Abraham Lincoln who fell. On another occasion — in a quasi-pagan ceremony — rioters repeatedly set a monument of an elk on fire and then pulled it down. A tour of the sights in Portland now comprises a huge variety of empty plinths. Few tourists will be returning for that. The remaining state and federal buildings are boarded up, graffitied over and abandoned.
Over the summer the President sent in federal guards, against the wishes of the local authorities. Today the remaining federal agents are among the few targets Antifa have left. I joined Antifa-BLM activists for a couple of nights this week.
First there was a ‘Fuck Gentrification’ march (my first). With no policemen in sight, the activists used their own police force, including outriders on motorcycles, to block off roads and then parade through the streets screaming through megaphones at customers in the remaining bars and at the residents of an area which they claimed had once been lived in by black and indigenous families. The people who lived in many of these houses came out and put their fists in the air or waved in solidarity. Most had BLM — or ‘Don’t hurt me’ — posters in their windows. All were accused of living on ‘stolen land’ by the mostly white marchers, whose other chants included ‘Wake up, motherfucker, wake up’.
A night later and we were outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility by the waterfront. This federal facility was boarded up, but Antifa like to try to burn these buildings down with the occupants inside. The federal authorities remain opposed to this. So a cat-and-mouse game kicked off, one which both sides are now practised in. The Antifa activists hurl projectiles at the boarded-up facility, beating drums to work themselves up into the violent frenzy they crave. Whenever the rioters get within a certain distance of the doors, and only after sufficient siren warnings have been given, the agents of law enforcement break out. Tear gas is fired and pepper bullets are used.
On Saturday the police came out shooting after fires were started in the street and Antifa made it to the door. A running battle saw the protestors chased back for a time, only for the police to retreat under a barrage of ‘oink’ noises from the protestors including young white women (one in a pink onesie jumpsuit) shouting ‘Nazis’ and screaming through megaphones at the officers about how much the officers’ children would hate their fathers.
Antifa’s tactic is to provoke the police into an act of violence on camera so the activists can then claim they are being oppressed. From everything I saw of the police — including being cleared from an alleyway at gunpoint along with a dozen or so Antifa activists — I would say that most US federal agents have the patience of saints.
Still the image comes to mind of the elephant brought down by the smaller predators. America is not being brought low by one beast, but by a whole pack of them. These predators include, though are not limited to: ignorance, educational failure, radical indoctrination, pandemic, poverty, narcissism, boredom, the disappearance of the adults, a belief that law enforcement is the enemy and much more. Why America didn’t throw off the first attacker and keep on moving is a question I cannot shake off, whether this pack brings the big beast crashing down or not.