Since the start of the year, there has been a report of a rise in attacks against the LGBTI community in Portland, Oregon. This has rocked the community, leading to distrust of the police and more.
According to LGBTI groups in Portland, there have been between 10 and 15 recent reported attacks.
Many are linking the attacks to local white supremacy groups, Patriot Prayer and Proud Boys. Last August, these two groups held a rally similar in vein to the deadly Charlottesville rally in 2017.
No arrests have been made and no evidence has been presented linking either group.
While the city is similar to other liberal west coast havens, it is also predominantly white, and that is historically intentional. It once made the crime of being black punishable by flogging and originally joined the United States as a ‘no-blacks’ state.
On Sunday, an LGBTI group in the city, Q Center, held a town hall regarding the uptick in attacks.
Not many questions answered
GSN spoke to a Portland resident, who asked not to be named, about the town hall.
They described the overall situation as ‘confusing’ and said the town hall did not answer many questions or assuage people’s fears. Q Center reportedly did not answer questions in detail and said they themselves did not have many details.
Q Center did not respond to inquiries made by GSN.
The Portland resident also told us that some in the city are becoming skeptical due to the lack of information. Others, however, are growing more fearful.
They also said there are flyers around the city threatening LGBTI people and that normally Portland is ‘exceedingly safe… especially for queer people’ and so ‘something feels off’.
What are police doing?
Portland police released a statement to GSN about these reports.
They said they have only received one report of a bias-based attack, on 10 February. According to their statement, the victim called to report the attack from the hospital.
‘Initially it was not reported as a bias attack,’ Portland police said. ‘But online posts suggested the victim believed it may have been.’
Authorities assigned the case to bias crime detectives in the Detectives Division Assault Detail. They have not confirmed if a crime occurred or if anyone else was involved. They are continuing to investigate.
According to their comments, police are ‘aware’ of the reports being made on social media.
‘We continue to encourage anyone who may be a victim of a crime to come forward and make a report,’ they told GSN. ‘We want all of our community members to feel safe and will do everything we can on our end to hold perpetrators accountable if crimes are committed.’
Part of the reason for a lack of reports may be people’s discomfort with reaching out to Portland police, as recently obtained text messages show a friendly relationship between Portland Police Lt. Jeff Niiya and Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson.
Distrust of police
The texts show the pair discussing Patriot Prayer’s plans for rallies, as well as joking.
‘Just make sure he doesn’t do anything which may draw our attention,’ Niiya texted Gibson in December 2017 about Gibson’s right-hand, Tusitala ‘Tiny’ Toese. Police have arrested Toese multiple times.
Niiya further warned Gibson of a possible warrent for Toese’s arrest.
Earlier this month, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler called for an independent investigation into these text messages. Wheeler described the messages as ‘disturbing’ and wondered if they crossed professional and ethical boundaries.
According to further reports of the town hall, audience member cheered when Q Center executive director Cameron Whitten said they have not been in contact with the police.
LGBTI organization Basic Rights Oregon responded to this, saying they ‘understand there may be discomfort regarding calling or speaking to the police in response to these situations’.
They released a list of things allies can do for LGBTI people in the community, including only contacting police if victims explicitly request that.
Banding together to make the city safer
Those in Portland must now navigate an uncertain and unsafe area. Fortunately, there are those in the city taking proactive steps to support and protect LGBTI individuals.
Morehouse Barbers made an Instagram post advertising their premises as a ‘safe space’.
One way residents of Portland can get around is by taking the ridesharing service Lyft.
‘When we heard reports of anti-LGBTQ violence in Portland, OR had left many in the community feeling unsafe, we wanted to help by offering rides to help them get home,’ the company told GSN.
‘It’s up to all of us to look out for one another.’
They offered rides to attend the town hall and are now offering free ride credits to all who need them. Further, they’re partnering with various organizations, including Q Center.
Currently, they’re developing a grant of ride credits for Q Center. The group will be able to employ the credits as they see fit for LGBTI people in the city.
The sitution in Portland remains ongoing and nebulous, but vigilant efforts continue to make the city safe.