More Questions Than Answers On Portland Police Coddling Neo Nazis

Screengrab of white power salutes by neo Nazi group in front of Portland City Hall April 1, 2023
Source: NewsCenterMaine

Today I return to considering the ongoing controversy in Portland, Maine about flaccid police response to a neo Nazi group that assaulted several people on April 1. If local resistance to white supremacy and street violence is not of interest, maybe skip this one. (For background with links to video and eyewitness reports, check out my April 13 blog post on this topic.)

I’ve now had time to review the two hours of testimony from the public at the City Council meeting of April 10, followed by the self-congratulatory — and evasive — remarks of the interim police chief. Also the District Attorney’s public criticism of police inaction and suggestions for improvement in coordination with her office.

Here are some questions I still have:

Why do people with privilege think they are qualified to evaluate how safe or unsafe someone else without that privilege feels?

Why did the police department refuse to take statements from any of the victims who were assaulted by members of the neo Nazi group?

Why did the police appear to order the neo Nazi group to kneel briefly on the sidewalk in front of City Hall?

Why did one officer appear to pull a gun on the group, and what kind of gun was it?

Were the neo Nazi group members carrying guns, as some have alleged?

Why did the police appear to signal to the neo Nazi group that they could depart without being questioned, identified, or charged for the assaults?

When will the police release body cam footage of the incident, and when will the city release surveillance camera footage from Monument Square and City Hall?

When the police say they couldn’t tell “who started it” in reference to one of the physical attacks they witnessed, why does this matter? (I’ve never been a cop but being a teacher on playground duty I often confronted this issue and resolved it by enforcing the consequences for physical violence no matter who started it.)

Were the neo Nazi group members federal agents, as some on social media have suggested? If so, did they coordinate in advance with the Portland police? 

Did the police have snipers on nearby rooftops as they did during the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020?

What are the likely consequences of showing a neo Nazi group that their presence will be, not just tolerated, but protected in the City of Portland?

What are the likely consequences for tourism, a major revenue source for both Portland and Maine?

How true is the claim that the culture of Portland attracting 5.4 million visitors a year was largely created by LGBTQ and/or people of color? In other words, the very groups targeted with shouted slurs and physical attacks by the neo Nazi group on April 10?

What role does the long history of white supremacist violence in Portland have in informing our understanding of what happened this month?

What role does Portland’s recent history of welcoming immigrants, including refugees and asylum seekers, many of whom are Black, have in drawing neo Nazis to Maine?

Screengrab of the first stop by the neo Nazi group, followed by them assaulting individuals in Monument Square and in front of Portland City Hall on April 1, 2023 Source: NewsCenterMaine

Councilor Andrew Zarro expressed my sentiments when he said on April 10 :

“I feel like I have more questions ending this evening’s public comment than I did going into it…

What is the next step? How are we going to show the community what the next step on this is?”

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