Portland Protests

The Kids Are All Right

The only creepy thing at the “Capitalism Is Spooky” Halloween rally in Portland was a conspicuous lack of fun.


The scene at Irving Park in northeast Portland at 6 p.m. on Halloween looks pretty much like any other Saturday night in the park: Kids shoot hoops on the north end, people play tennis on the south, dogs run in the center. Tonight there's also a Day of the Dead celebration, with singing and lighting candles and little kids in costumes spinning and eating cake.

Watching from the adjoining hillside are about 60 people in costumes of their own, the all-black clothing, face masks, and helmets of black bloc, here for tonight's "Capitalism is Spooky" rally. That every other rally and march I've been to has appeared livelier and better-attended than this one may be due to participation burnout; Portland is on Night 158 of continual protests, with a few days taken off during the wildfires in September. Where there's previously been pep and sloganeering, tonight there are hillside sitters looking bored with the Day of the Dead crew, with the toddlers dancing with their moms, maybe even with other people taking over a public space when, for the past four months, those have been their domain—parks and streets and Mayor Ted Wheeler's apartment complex—their places to make a stand, and wasn't it time for these others to clear out? So they could get on with their important work?

Tonight's important work, per the online flyer, includes "No Cameras. No Peace Police. Total Abolition." But by 6:30, there are no tricks or treats, no music, and, with the exception of some guy wearing a paper mask of Andy Ngo on the back of his head, no costumes. By all lights, it is a no-fun zone. 

Would there at least maybe be a speaker, maybe mayoral candidate Sarah Iannarone, who just the day before had been endorsed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and who, as of late, has been trolling people with her communist-leaning enthusiasms? I mean, who better to talk up the evils of capitalism? And did the chubby black bloc guy drinking a Bud next to me think she'd show up? 

Bud doesn't seem particularly interested in the question, though he does offer, "Anybody is better than Ted Wheeler, who needed to pick a lane and stick to it." He also thinks there's a pretty good showing tonight, "Maybe 75 people." 

Sure, though previously there've been ten times as many. Then again, it's Halloween, maybe people have plans, or kids.

"Most of these people are kids," Bud says, looking at a few people in black bloc setting out the usual water and first aid. With the exception of one guy carrying a big red flag without insignia, there's no color and no zip and the whole thing feels like a love affair gone flaccid. Though if we're following script, the fireworks will start later, or the fires will. Does Bud guy think there will be marching tonight?

"Of course," he says, though he doesn't know where they'll go; maybe the police station up in north Portland. What he does know is that there will be no filming, no livestreaming; that that's been an edict since the Day of Rage on October 11, "when they pulled the statues down," he says, before lumbering off, which is when I notice a brilliant blue sky streaked with pink cumulus clouds, and hear the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" playing from the not-yet-dead Day of the Dead event.

I head to the dog run, where there are people in costume (tonight's maybe-winner: a little girl dressed as a poop emoji) and plenty of laughing.

"Have you voted?" asks a guy dressed as a voting booth. I fill out a "ballot" and drop it in, then walk toward a dozen high school kids at a picnic table. Kanye West's "Gold Digger" plays from some device; there's the thwock thwock of the tennis, and it occurs to me that what is happening in Irving Park, a park I lived within six blocks of for 15 years, has very little to do with the people in black bloc sitting all sour on a hillside; that they are not the story the people of Portland are telling themselves.

One of the high school kids calls to me, "How's your night going?" 

Good, good. How about them? 

"Good, I mean, it's Halloween," says the kid, who's as beautiful as Taylor Hanson, as is the kid who sits beside him, who rolls a skateboard beneath his feet. Are they in tenth grade?

"Ninth," Hanson 1. "At Central Catholic."

Cool. My daughter went to Grant High School.

"Sick," says Hanson 2. 

Did they see the people in black over on the hill? Do they know what's going on?

"I saw a big flag," says Hanson 1. "What is it?"

It's the folks who call themselves black bloc, anarchists, antifa.

"Oh, antifa, yeah," he says. "Are they over there?"

Yes, some event they're calling "Capitalism is Spooky," after which they'll probably march somewhere and set things on fire.

"Sounds like antifa," he says.

Have they heard about antifa and what they do?

"Yes, it's very controversial," says a girl in a sparkly face mask. "They do break stuff and set stuff on fire but honestly, I understand why."

"I don't," says Hanson 1.

"I think protesting is one thing. But breaking shit and setting stuff on fire isn't the best," says Hanson 2. "I support the protests, but not the riots."

"It's not doing much except destroying our city," says Hanson 1. 

"Originally, when they started doing that stuff, and having all the media cover it, was a huge step in bringing attention to it," says Sparkle. "The continuation of it is honestly not, like, [good]."

Do their parents talk to them about this—the fires and stuff?

"My parents kind of support it but also they don't support some of the things," says Sparkle. "They support what they stand for but not the actions."

"I know some people involved in it," says a kid who looks a little like Pete Sampras. "I'm not going to say their names, but my parents know them too and are kind of… in charge of them; it's an individual thing where like, 'You're old enough to be making your own decisions, but is this how you think change is going to be made?'"

Does he think this is how change is going to be made in Portland?

"I mean, I think it's made their voices heard, but I think there are definitely other ways they could have done it than to riot," he says. "But that's kind of the way it went and they're all just super angry about it. I think it's just angry young people not liking whatever the government says."

Young people can be angry or happy but black bloc in its current iteration seems so joyless, plus have they seen any changes yet that are positive?

"Not yet," says Sparkle. 

Their mission seems bent on destruction, I offer.

"Isn't that antifa?" says Hanson 1. "Plus there's a lot of controversy going on around politics right now, so it's difficult."

"I mean, the election's in three days," says Hanson 2.

What do they think is going to happen? 

"Blue sweep," says the lanky kid to my left, pulling on a giant spliff. 

"I hope so," says Sparkle. "It might be another thing like 2016, where Biden takes the popular vote but Trump wins the Electoral College."

If they were in charge of changing things in Portland, what would they do?

"I'd redistribute the wealth of the police," says Sampras. "I don't want to totally defund them but they don't need their total budget. And change some of their responsibilities regarding mental health."

"It can be looked at," says a girl who's not yet spoken, a petite blond in what appears to be a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader costume. "The whole idea of ACAB [All Cops Are Bastards] and abolishing the police is good, but it would be really hard to do. But something that maybe needs to be done—not so there's no police force—is to train people for certain situations so that you don't have people trained less than electricians and hairdressers coming into situations that require serious mental health background knowledge. It's just not fair to basically give basic people a savior complex and expect them to handle any situation."

"She's way too smart," says Hanson 1, and, when I ask if I can take their picture, looks at the spliff in his hand and says, "We're kinda good."

Thanks so much guys, happy Halloween, thanks for talking to me.

"Thanks for talking to us," says Hanson 1.

I walk out of the park, past the black blockers—a few more bodies now, if still no music—and think how they are not the future, and they are not the future because people do not want to be told no all the time—no pictures, no interviews, no joy unless countenanced by a crew that, from the sourpuss looks tonight, are having no fun at all. I think, too, how a bunch of semi-stoned 14-year-olds not only are adorable and generous, but are grappling with ideas about how to fix the city in ways the black bloc folks are not, maybe even in ways the mayor is not.

Instead of following the black bloc into the night, where it will turn out they break into businesses and threaten people on-camera with things like, "We know who you are," I head home, to pass out candy to trick-or-treaters, which seems the sweetest thing I can do, considering how sweet some kids have just been to me.

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  1. “I’d redistribute the wealth of the police,” says Sampras. “I don’t want to totally defund them but they don’t need their total budget. And change some of their responsibilities regarding mental health.”

    Responsibilities regarding mental health? What does that mean? If we’re going to keep doing this stupid voting thing, we have to raise the minimum age to 35.

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  2. “No Cameras. No Peace Police. Total Abolition.”

    Soo… these rules must be a result of the poor showing in the polls?

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  3. So they whatever’ed up and went on to bust up some small businesses to pass the time? And these teen agers can be forgiven for being young and naive, but their clueless parents support this bullshit?

    Nancy Rommelmann should get an award, by the way. Actually goes out watches and talks to people, even those who often threaten her. Call it Last Journalist Standing.

    1. I have really appreciated her coverage. It’s really hard to find anyone covering this stuff that doesn’t seem to be propagandizing for one thing or another.

    2. Absolutely, an actual journalist.
      Reason needs more of her.

      1. Agree. Ms Romellmann has had a number of really good articles on this topic – this is another.
        Thanks Nancy!

  4. The Kids Are All Right is a 2010 American comedy-drama film directed by Lisa Cholodenko and written by Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg. It is among the first mainstream movies to show a same-sex couple raising two teenagers.
    spectruminternetprices provides the best Internet, TV cable, and Phone call services in all the states of the US.

    1. “The Kids Are All Right” is a 1965 song by The Who, you uncultured bot!

  5. “dogs run in the center”

    Capitalist running dogs?

  6. I live in California, and sometimes I despair at how utterly bizarre this state is. I can’t even being to understand what goes through the minds of the progressives and woke here.

    Then I read updates about Portland, and realize I am not in the heart of crazy. Thank your Portland, for making California seem sane.

    1. Then I read updates about Portland, and realize I am not in the heart of crazy. Thank your Portland, for making California seem sane.

      When I used to live in Oakland, pretty much every whacko progressive granola type I knew was talking about how they were going to move to Portland soon, because “they get it up there.”

      1. That fucking IFC television show did more to turn Portland into the proglydyte mecca than anything else I can think of.

        The thing is, Portland dominates the state population numbers so much that there’s literally nothing the hinterlands can do to overcome it, short of a massive earthquake that swallows up half the city. They control the state the way Chicago controls Illinois. What’s obnoxious is that these idiots identify with Katniss Everdeen when they’re really more like the brain-dead consoooooooomers in the Capital.

        1. I find it really funny that there were people who watched Portlandia and thought “that looks like a great place to live, I need to be around more people like that”. The show seemed like some pretty vicious mockery of a bunch of idiots to me.

        2. What’s obnoxious is that these idiots identify with Katniss Everdeen when they’re really more like the brain-dead consoooooooomers in the Capital

          Exactly. We wind up getting a lot of our construction labor from rural Oregon, and the cultural gap between Portlandia and the rest of the state might be the most extreme in the country. Most of Oregon is about as “redneck” as it gets, while Portland seems to be a lot of people who felt that the SF Bay Area was too “Right Wing.” These two groups don’t seem to understand one another at all.

        3. Wait until The Change [/Emberverse]

    2. I’ve lived in both places. I don’t think California is more sane, I just think Californians are too laid back to get out and protest. Except maybe in LA where they’re used to getting fired up about stuff.

    3. Blue states are full of lunatics.

      Georgia businesses and schools are open. No lockdown ever. No mask requirements. We go where we want when we want.

      Kids trick or treated in neighborhoods like last year.

  7. Oh don’t worry they’ll be out in force again after Trump wins. Democrats and lefties will never accept losing an election.

    One more term, get the courts packed with conservatives, and even more deregulation and ending many parts of the federal bureaucracy. Then we can breathe.

    1. Funny thing; the socialists riots are scheduled for Wednesday, no matter who wins.

    2. “One more term, get the courts packed with conservatives, and even more deregulation and ending many parts of the federal bureaucracy. Then we can breathe.”

      Amen, brother.

  8. Rommelmann: consistently great coverage of Portland. Always interesting to read, gives a good picture of what’s going on, especially when it comes down to the fact that people are involved, not just organizations.

  9. Good to see you back Nancy.

  10. She’s hot and he’s a teenager , he gonna agree with anything she say’s. hoping, hoping, lol

    1. Looked her up; sure, hot enough to be Mrs. Robinson. Not Ann Bancroft hot, but hot enough.

      1. The blue hair helps, makes the kids think she’s one of them and might be giving it away free later.

  11. Nancy Rommelmann is full of awesome.

    1. She doesn’t spin what people say. She just reports it and lets their banality speak for itself. Original thought has been stamped out in Portland.

      1. And unlike some contributors hereabouts, does not try to gaslight us in an sniveling sort of way.

      2. You can’t trust anything Chuck posts cuz he’s a pedo worshippers. Hey Chuck when you pray do you talk to god? Of course not because your god doesn’t exist because God wouldn’t make a pedo con artist a prophet. You’re a fucking scumbag Chuck. Goddamn waste of fucking life. Hang yourself with your magic underwear. Fuck Mormons and their pedo con artist prophet.

        You’re going to roast in goddamn hell with all the mormons you terrible human being.

  12. “The only creepy thing at the “Capitalism Is Spooky” Halloween rally in Portland was a conspicuous lack of fun.”

    Rule number 1 for zealots is that nothing is funny. Or is that death to infidels?

  13. WTF are “Peace Police”?

  14. yeah, capitalism is spooky, trusting the invisible hand of the market to encourage people to produce goods and services people want, at prices they are willing to pay.

    better to trust politicians to run things. they’re like totally skilled and on your side

  15. When we were young the future was so bright, the whole neighborhood was so alive. Every kid on the whole damn street was gonna make it big in every beat

  16. Fantastic writing.
    Reason.com needs more of this style of writing.

  17. What are you still doing in Portland Nancy? I thought you didn’t like the people? Well Portland hates you you conservative cunt. GET THE FUCK OUTA MY CITY BITCH!

    1. Meanwhile, back at the ranch – lighten up!
      I think Nancy’s cute.

  18. The last part is why Trump is smashing tonight.

  19. Meanwhile, back at the ranch – lighten up!
    I think Nancy’s cute.

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