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Portland Police were called to a Multnomah County Democratic Party meeting on Thursday after reports of an assault.
An ongoing rift between Bernie Sanders’ supporters and Democratic Party leaders turned the meeting into a shoving match and something close to a brawl.
Police received two emergency calls about an hour apart. Officers spoke to a woman who described being grabbed as she tried to videotape the meeting with her phone. Both sides said the two factions disagreed over part of the meeting agenda and how the chairperson Lorraine Van Hoe was handling it.
One observer at the meeting, Abby Collins, describes disagreements between party leaders and attendees degenerating into shoving and alleged assaults.
“It was like a high school cafeteria fight between multiple parties where tables and chairs were knocked out of place and screaming and yelling occurred,” Collins described in a statement to OPB.
Collins said party leaders tried to forcefully exert order on attendees who were attempting to change the course of the meeting.
“[Van Hoe] appointed two sergeant-at-arms individuals to publicly remove those questioning her and henceforth two men began to manhandle the individuals causing a brawl,” Collins said. “It looked like a rugby huddle moving about in the middle of the room, people holding onto each other so they would not fall while attempts were made to throw them out.”
Multnomah County Democrats’ spokeswoman Sue Hagmeier downplayed the incident, saying there was “a bit of shoving in the back of the room.” Hagmeier said the party needs to “work to better accommodate our ‘big tent.’”
But Hagmeier also said some of the blame fell on the “newcomers,” some of whom she said had planned in advance to disrupt the meeting. She said at times they tried to “shout down” the chair.
Officers first showed up around 7:15 p.m., according to police. They left without interfering, after seeing a meeting in progress. Police showed up a second time after getting a call an hour later, according to Portland Police Sgt. Pete Simpson.
“They received another call to the same location, from a woman who wanted to report being the victim of an assault,” Simpson said. “Officers spoke to this woman who said she was inside during the meeting. There was a disturbance. She got out her phone to film it, and was told that she could not film, and one of the staffers grabbed her by the arm to take the phone out of her hand.”
Simpson said officers interviewed a number of people who were at the meeting, but there were no arrests.
Hagmeier said the meeting did return to order, and the members present finished the agenda.
Collins said she is ending her active involvement in the Democratic Party as a result of the incident.
“Involvement in party politics was insightful and a valuable opportunity to provide some insider perspective,” Collins wrote. “But now I’m done.”