[S]ome Portlanders came to see the demonstrations as a threat to the city’s appeal to tourists and investors. “Lenders and purchasers have for all intents and purposes blacklisted Portland,” said John Russell, a longtime Portland real estate developer. Dramatic clashes between protesters and law enforcement provided the opportunity for right-wing politicians and media to depict the city as besieged by violent anarchists and, as Donald Trump claimed, “ablaze all the time.”
Commenters linked Portland’s protest movement to homelessness and rising gun violence, marshaling it all as evidence of a city in precipitous decline.
Now, with civic leaders focused on economic recovery, advocates are concerned that efforts to rehabilitate Portland’s brand may eclipse the tentative steps taken toward reform. The pandemic, the protests, and a series of climate-related crises exposed major fault lines in Portland, from public safety and racial inequity to gentrification and homelessness.
[Mayor Ted] Wheeler, who is regularly accosted when he goes out in public, is facing a recall campaign. Business leaders have pressed city officials to be more aggressive in their treatment of protesters and in clearing homeless encampments.
Gun violence has fueled calls for reinvestment in Portland’s police force and the reinstatement of some of the disbanded units. During the weekend of the downtown reopening, FBI agents and members of a new police unit coordinated to provide a “high-visibility presence”—a potent illustration of how the winds have shifted.