Protesters had a plan Tuesday night: avoid police officers and then surprise a Portland city commissioner.
That commissioner was Dan Ryan, a swing vote in a coming fight over future budgeting for the Portland Police Bureau. Last week, city commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty revealed a plan that would reallocate $18 million from police funding. Hardesty’s plan has received support from Commissioner Chloe Eudaly but is unlikely to get support from Mayor Ted Wheeler or Commissioner Amanda Fritz.
That means Ryan could be the deciding vote at Wednesday’s budget hearing.
And so, just before 11 p.m. Tuesday night, dozens of protesters set off from Arbor Lodge park in North Portland while a separate demonstration was taking place a few miles away outside the police bureau’s north precinct building.
Protesters walked silently and had planned to start chanting only once they arrived at Ryan’s home, allowing the demonstration a few miles away to draw police attention.
Once at Ryan’s home, the group chanted “defund PPB” and “Dan Ryan don’t be a villain, defund PPB by $18 million.”
Ryan came out of his home and said he would listen to the protesters' concerns. The group sat in a semicircle near the home and took turns telling the commissioner their stories of police brutality after 134 nights of demonstrations. Ryan stood in his front lawn, listening for almost an hour.
One protester eventually asked whether the commissioner was going to vote in favor of the cuts to the Portland Police Bureau.
“I haven’t made up my mind yet. It’s a complicated issue; I need to talk to my colleagues,” said Ryan, who was elected to office earlier this year.
“Dan Ryan don’t be a villain, defund PPB by 18 million” pic.twitter.com/oyT09BVgNW— Sergio Olmos (@MrOlmos) October 28, 2020
Ryan told the protesters he was in contact with police and asked them not to intervene in the impromptu discussion. He also cooperated with protesters in trying to limit press coverage of the event. The commissioner said he did not want photos or video taken.
“Dude, no pictures,” one demonstrator said at one point to a photographer from the Oregonian/OregonLive.
“This is not your entertainment,” another person said.
“We don’t want your images here,” the first demonstrator said. “Delete that.”
While there is no legal or reasonable expectation of privacy at an event taking place on a public street, at times journalists have been approached by protesters and harassed for attempting to cover news events. Similar warnings were issued to members of the press earlier this month when some demonstrators tore down statues in downtown Portland.
Tuesday night marked the first time a sitting government official has condoned First Amendment suppression with the help of protesters. Ryan’s office did not immediately respond to questions on the issue.
The discussion outside Ryan’s home ended without a final decision on police funding. Some protesters exchanged phone numbers with the commissioner. Others in the crowd thanked him and the entire group left peacefully just after midnight.
This story will be updated.