PORTLAND, Ore. — An emotionally-charged crowd of dozens of Portlanders attended a public meeting on policing that at times turned explosive Thursday night.
The meeting comes a week after a Willamette Week report detailed text messages between Portland Police Lt. Jeffrey Niiya and Joey Gibson of the right-wing group Patriot Prayer.
Critics say the text messages are unprofessional and show Lt. Liiya and Gibson have a friendly and cozy relationship. But newly-released records show Lt. Niiya also communicated with anti-fascist protesters during protests in 2017.
The union representing Lt. Niiya argues he was simply doing his job by gathering intelligence to keep the community safe. An internal investigation is underway.
Mayor Ted Wheeler and Police Chief Danielle Outlaw were in attendance to field questions from the community.
“You guys are collaborating with right-wing white supremacists who have engaged in a two-year campaign of violence,” one woman told the panel.
Another community member asked, “Why are you more concerned about us, the public, standing up against racism, than the racists who are coming in from out of state and antagonizing people?”
At one point, a Patriot Prayer supporter rushed the panel and had to be escorted out of the meeting, which ended shortly thereafter without much of a resolution.
Police even had to intervene in an argument that spilled out into the parking lot.
“We anticipated that emotions were high and some of the groups in attendance have a history of having physical confrontations in our city,” said Lt. Tina Jones with the Portland Police Bureau.
Jones said in the end, she thought the meeting was a win because it continued for two hours, the planned duration.
“At the end of the day I was proud of people for really keeping it in check. I know there were a couple of moments where it looked like there might be physical confrontations and I think people were able to self-police,” said Jones.