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Violence Escalates As Portland Nears 100 Consecutive Nights Of Protests


Tonight, protesters will mark the 100th consecutive night of demonstrations in Portland, Ore. There was a considerable escalation in violence this week that left two people dead. One was a supporter of the far-right group Patriot Prayer. The other was the man who shot him, a far-left anti-fascist demonstrator. Oregon Public Broadcasting's Jonathan Levinson has been covering this story, and he joins us from Portland. John, thanks for being with us.

JONATHAN LEVINSON, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: The district attorney released more details yesterday about the shooting on Saturday, when anti-fascist activist Michael Forest Reinoehl shot and killed Aaron J. Danielson. What did we learn from those records?

LEVINSON: The DA released the arrest warrant affidavit for Reinoehl's arrest, and we still don't know why he shot Danielson. Witnesses told investigators they saw a verbal confrontation between Danielson and two other people and one of them said something along the lines of, you want to go? And just before Reinoehl shot him, Danielson set off a spray bottle, which we think was likely Mace. That wasn't confirmed in the records. We also learned that Danielson was carrying a collapsible baton in his other hand. And finally, court records show that police found a holstered and loaded Glock handgun in Danielson's waistband and three 9 millimeter magazines in his pockets. Reinoehl told Vice News that he was acting in self-defense, but nothing in the court records suggests Danielson pulled the gun on Reinoehl or anyone else during that confrontation.

SIMON: There's a memorial service today for the far-right supporter Aaron J. Danielson, who was shot dead, as you explained, and another Trump rally is planned for Labor Day on Monday. How are officials there preparing?

LEVINSON: Yeah, there will be a handful of speakers today, including Danielson's friends, at the memorial. Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson plans to speak. And Gibson said they're going to try to keep it positive. We should note yesterday, Facebook removed Gibson's profile for violating public safety policies, and that was hours after he had posted unsubstantiated rumors about the shooting.

As for Monday, we don't really know a lot. It's being advertised similarly to last week's rally, as it's a Trump 2020 cruise. Police haven't indicated yet how they might be staffing this weekend's protests. The past two weeks of pro-Trump rallies in Portland, the police have said that they're understaffed and don't have the numbers to have a huge presence out on the streets. And that's a big difference from the big far-right rally last August, when Portland police mobilized a lot of resources and they got assistance from neighboring agencies. But other agencies now are declining to help. The mayor has asked outside groups to stay away and to help de-escalate, and that seems to be the plan at the moment.

SIMON: We noted the protests are marking their hundredth day. What do protest leaders and city officials say about how and when this cycle might end?

LEVINSON: Well, it doesn't seem like this week's events changed much. Last night, a few hundred protesters were gathered at the police union headquarters, focusing their protests on the police. They've been very consistent since the beginning. They plan to stay in the streets until protesters see meaningful changes to the criminal justice system.

The most consistent and specific demands has been $50 million pulled from the police budget and reinvested in the community into things like mental health care and housing and education. And as we get closer to the election, as the campaigns kick into high gear, a lot of city officials are saying they expect these protests could continue until November.

One of my colleagues was out at the protest last night and spoke to Mac Smiff. He's a local activist who's been out at the protest from the beginning. This is what he had to say.

MAC SMIFF: I think it goes on until we see change. I don't think that anyone's changed their mind. We just don't want to go back to normal, so there's no incentive to get out of the streets.

LEVINSON: He said there's no incentive to get out of the streets. Smiff also said that things have changed. Protesters used to come out in paper masks for COVID. Now they're wearing gas masks, body armor and helmets.

SIMON: Oregon Public Broadcasting's Jonathan Levinson, thanks so much.

LEVINSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.