Portland's protestors, and Antifa, gained national attention in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd but anti-fascist and anti-racist actions have a long history in the Rose City. Commonly directing actions against a brutal and deeply biased police force, or against a self-serving and out of touch business community, the broader indicator of these actions has either been publicly ignored or truthfully unknown by Oregon's politicians and popular media.
"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."
In the wake of George Floyd's murder, a wave of protest and direct action events swept the nation. The rage visible during the largest protest in U.S. history, and on the streets of over 2,000 cities around the world, was the result of political failure, not simply the action of one police officer. It was political failure that enabled white supremacy to thrive in police departments around the nation, shortening the fuse on an international powder keg fueled by injustice.
In Portland, the city council has repeatedly failed to reign in their police force, continually failed to adequately fund services for unhoused, and ultimately fail to guarantee a truly first-world standard of living for many communities. Alongside these local crises, a retributive national immigration policy directly affected Oregon, a state with a large agricultural industry commonly staffed by immigrants. And all this was set inside a policy environment openly called "business friendly" (also known as tipping the scale toward owners and management). The groundwork for revolutionary activity in Portland was completed by those in power, not those without.
Counter to the claims of right-wing media, George Floyd protestors were generally not Marxists, but the effect of what's happening in Portland is revolutionary. It is, categorically, unrest from communities that in sum amount to the majority of voters, it is unrest grounded in an unbroken chain of economic, social and environmental injustices that continue to go unaddressed. The legitimacy of Portland's government is not in question because it plainly cannot be said to have a mandate, Mayor Wheeler gained his position by breaking essential election law.
If local government does not act to address crises, and will not act when constituents engage in public forum, they sow additional seeds of revolution. Radical action became relatively common in Portland in 2020 and continues in 2021; without fundamental change radicalization, and by corollary extremism, may not only continue but accelerate long-term. And while covid-related relief efforts from the federal government may have a short-term cooling effect on dissident action, inequality in Portland will not be solved by small, one-off payments and collapse of municipal entities because of dissident action is a genuine potential now.