Remember the many times we were outraged at the police denying people the right to take video of their actions in public? It was against the law, they claimed. They arrested people for doing so. They seized their phones. They deleted the video. It was outrageous, wrong and nothing more than an obvious ploy to conceal their misconduct from scrutiny.
Welcome to Portland, where it’s happening again, but not by the cops this time.
“YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED TO FILM!” is a cry you hear incessantly at protests in Portland, Oregon, always shouted at close range to your face by after-dark demonstrators. You can assert that, yes, you can film; you can point out that they themselves are filming incessantly; you can push their hands away from covering your phone; you can have your phone record them stealing your phone—all of these things have happened to me—and none will have any impact on their contention that “YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED TO FILM” and its occasional variation, “PHOTOGRAPHY EQUALS DEATH!”
Nancy Rommelmann has been reporting on the protests and riots in Portland since July. She’s not antagonistic to the cause, but she’s no fawning sycophant either. That means she’s not on the list of protest-approved “journalists,” entitled to show the world the Glorious Revolution.
Reporters seen as not sufficiently sympathetic to the cause—which is defined by the Ten Demands for Justice, and includes most notably the abolition of the police—will be followed, be harassed, have their notes photographed and their phones blocked or stolen. (All these things have happened to me in the last month. A photographer friend has been repeatedly doxxed and placed on a list of “enemies.”)
It’s not that this doesn’t make sense. If you own the streets, you own what happens on your streets. If you control the flow of images out of Portland, you can manufacture a sympathetic view for the world to see. Who wouldn’t want to silence doubters and only allow those who will promote your cause? Better yet, when the only video coming out of riots is from sympathetic hands, it’s the only video available to those atop large soapboxes.
Note who the people on this activist-approved list are writing for. Sergio Olmos, who made IPC’s list of approved journalists, is a man on the ground for The New York Times. Freelancer Robert Evans, whose early tick-tock of events on the ground I have admired, tweeted on July 19 that the burning of the Portland Police Association was “the single biggest win so far.” When questioned why, he replied that protesters have been “tear-gassed and beaten” for weeks. Unmentioned in his tweets: Protesters have been setting fire to the building for hours on many nights throughout the summer before a police response materializes.
As for reporters like Nancy Rommelmann who can’t be trusted to abide the demands of protesters, she’s been screamed at, threatened, blocked, had her smartphone stolen and been generally subjected to constant harassment. The revolution will be televised, but not by Nancy. Only the officially approved “journalists” will tell the story.
While the cops weren’t able to pull it off, the rebels of Portland have taken up the slack by dictating what you will know and see.
It will not be quiet in Portland this weekend. Last night self-professed antifa supporter Michael Reinoehl was shot to death as the authorities tried to arrest him for killing Patriot Prayer member Aaron Danielson. (Reinoehl claimed in an interview with Vice that it was self-defense.) It’s going to be 100 degrees in the city. As we move into what is shaping to be the hottest weekend thus far in Portland, it’s important to understand how the coverage you are getting is being shaped, and by whom.
Want to see the video of the shooting, the killing of Reinoehl? You can’t.
“As they attempted to apprehend him, there was gunfire,” Lieutenant Brady said. He said four law enforcement officers fired their weapons.
Lieutenant Brady said that Mr. Reinoehl had a handgun with him, but added on Friday that “we are not able to confirm at this time if he fired shots” and that he was not aware of there being any body camera recordings of the episode.
The revolution was supposed to be televised, but there will be gaps in the broadcast. Video has done much to enlighten us as to what “really” happened, but not nearly as much as truth as we hoped it would.