Dispatch from Portland 2023: The Deadly Consequences of Living Without Consequence
A special needs student is kidnapped and terrorized and Portland's system of justice shrugs. How long will the city keep falling for the upside-down world? Plus: A sneak preview of a new project
I had to stop walking in Soho this morning and record a short video; this, after reading about the latest case of a judge deciding that a suspect - who’d kidnapped and terrorized a special needs student - was fine to be let out into the general public, with zero consequence other than checking in with a monitoring service, which the suspect did not do. That article is here. The kidnapped boy was 16.
I am, again, unable to understand the logic behind this. Those who read my story about the murder of Rachael Abraham, “A Murder in Portland,” will recall that Abraham’s would-be killer, Mohammed Adan, was released for zero bail by at least six judges. When a $2000 bond was finally imposed, it was not for the five counts of felony strangulation against Adan, the gun to Abraham’s head, the repeated beatings and his pledge to kill her, it was for contempt of court. The refusal of the judicial system to impose penalty went into overdrive in 2020. I have no idea what will right it; as I suggest in the essay below, a sneak preview into a larger project, it’s gotten into the bloodstream. How do you swap out your blood?
Jonah Goldberg wrote about this yesterday, in “How About Zero Tolerance for Crime?” His ideas are not as doctrinaire as the title makes it sound and are worth your time. I spoke with Jonah earlier in the year about Portland’s unwillingness to impose penalty, and specifically about the Abraham murder.
Thank you for listening and reading, more, as they say in the reporting biz, TK.
If I could chart how the young people of Portland found themselves on the offensive in the summer of 2020, I had a harder time understanding why politicians and the press were so ready to give them an assist. I would live-stream activists bashing in the face of the federal building with a fire extinguisher and be told, variously, that they were defending themselves, that the police did worse, or that I’d staged the attack in a studio. Most media outlets seemed of the opinion that to distinguish protester from rioter risked shining a bad light on the entire protest movement, and they were unwilling or institutionally discouraged from reporting from more than one vantage point. (Reason, on the other hand, never asked that I report from any particular position.) Those witnessing or participating in the destruction would make sure to capture and stream images of the activists on defense-only. When I filmed things that countered the narrative of activists/heroes, police/evil, black bloc would cover my camera with their hands, shout “PHOTOGRAPHY EQUALS DEATH!" and, one time, steal my phone. I should mention that a girl in black bloc also washed teargas out of my eyes in the park across from the federal building. So, at a different event, did a Proud Boy.
People did not want to see more than one side. They wanted people to suspect the worst in their neighbors and those in neighboring states. News anchors warned, as they did every four years, that the 2020 elections were the most important our lifetimes, and, regarding Portland specifically, repeated some variation of "Savages!" and "Trump goons!" around the clock, arousing and validating a sense of anxiety, a sense that things worth fighting for - the defeat of racism, equity and inclusion, taking power from those who'd historically abused power - were on the line, and Portland? Portland would hold the line.