Portland police sgt: Legitimate protests, message 'hijacked by anarchists'

Portland police sgt: Legitimate protests, message 'hijacked by anarchists'

Portland protesters beat truck driver unconscious

Police searching for suspects; Dan Springer has the details.

A Portland Police Bureau sergeant came to the defense of his colleagues and the department amid ongoing protests in the Oregon city during an interview that aired just hours after a man was dragged from his truck and attacked during a riot on Sunday night.

Sgt. Brent Maxey, who has been on the force for 18 years, told Oregon’s KGW-TV on Monday that Portland’s nightly protests “have now devolved.”

“I really thought that it was time for somebody who has firsthand knowledge of this to speak up,” he told the station. “I just want to tell the truth. I want the truth to be out there.”

Maxey said he was prompted to speak up after Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek condemned the police response in an open letter sent to Mayor Ted Wheeler at the beginning of July.

Shortly before Kotek’s letter, dozens of people were arrested after authorities said protesters threw cans, water bottles, fireworks and “baseball-sized rocks” at police, which prompted officers in riot gear to use tear gas after declaring a riot. Some demonstrators disputed the police characterization in Twitter posts and said officers seemed to react much faster and more aggressively than at past protests.

“It was an unnecessary escalation by the PPB against people exercising their freedom of assembly and freedom of speech,” Kotek wrote. “It showed an utter inability to exercise restraint. Smart policing is when an officer can differentiate a minor provocation from a serious threat. Nothing about this was smart.”

But Maxey was critical of what he said was Kotek’s idea that “without police escalating the situation with the – what amount to riots – the crowd would simply stop their behavior and go away.”

“There was a legitimate message to a lot of this. Whether we agree with how we got to where we are, there is a legitimate group that has a legitimate message,” he told KGW-TV. “These have now devolved. They've been hijacked by anarchists, essentially. And they’ve just kind of devolved into these masses of people that are just bent on destruction and hurting, mainly hurting police or anybody that really disagrees with that message.”

Maxey told the outlet he has often covered the protests, which have carried on for months since the May 25 police-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. He said there have been “very few instances where things have not happened that have caused the police to react to what people in the crowd are doing.”

Over the course of the more than 80 nights, rioters have at times reportedly set fires in the streets and in or near buildings, damaged police precincts or affiliated buildings, vandalized federal property, and thrown rocks, bottles and explosives at law enforcement officers or government buildings.

PORTLAND PROTEST TURNS VIOLENT, BRUTAL ASSAULT CAUGHT ON VIDEO

On Monday night into Tuesday morning, police said rioters tried to “flood” a department building by breaking a window and leaving a hose inside.

Most notably, on Sunday night, police responded to a 911 call for a report that protesters “chased a white Ford” four-by-four truck, which then crashed in the downtown area, according to a department press release. Protesters then dragged the driver out of the vehicle, one caller stated. Another told police an estimated nine to 10 people began “beating the guy,” the caller stated.

The man was unconscious when police arrived. He was taken to a local hospital for his non-life-threatening injuries.

Marquise Love (Portland Police Bureau)

Just Tuesday afternoon, police announced they were searching for a 25-year-old named Marquise Love in connection with the attack.

Officials said in a press release they have made several attempts to reach Love, but have so far been unsuccessful. They have said they have probable cause for his arrest.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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