Nancy Rommelmann Reports From the Portland Protests
After the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May, demonstrators in Portland, Oregon, took to the streets for 108 days in a row, setting buildings on fire and scuffling with local and federal law enforcement as well as fellow Portlanders. As the summer wore on, protesters began entering residential neighborhoods in the early morning hours, shining lights into windows and telling people to literally and figuratively “wake up” to a world they say is made intolerable by racism, income inequality, the presidency of Donald Trump, and more.
Veteran journalist Nancy Rommelmann knows Rose City like the back of her hand, having lived there for 15 years. Nick Gillespie spoke with her in August about the roots of the unrest, what she learned while covering the demonstrations for Reason, and what might be coming next.
Q: Tell me about the protesters we see on the national news.
A: For the most part, in my experience, they’re kids.
Q: What do you mean by that?
A: I’m in my 50s. I’m a mother. They’re in their early 20s and sort of ungainly, like kids in their early 20s can be. I’ve had them be, one-on-one, exceptionally polite to me: offering me a doughnut or a water, or “Can I wash out your eyes?” [after I’ve been hit with tear gas]. They will claim they are taking care of each other, and in a certain sense, they are.
I have had them be extremely obnoxious to me. They stole my phone. They come up and yell in my face. They want [you] to know that they’re there with their baton.
I’ve also had a few—very few—actually talk to me.
Q: When you see somebody walking down the street carrying a bat, that’s very provocative.
A: It is provocative. And usually you’re not seeing one person. They move in groups, whether it’s three people or six people or 600 people. And this is deliberate, to say, “We are here.”
It’s sort of the magic outfit. “I put
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