Pride weekend violence – what’s going on, queer Portland?

Stop hate and violence in and towards our community

Stop hate and violence in and towards our community

Pride is over, our hangovers have subsided, the messes have mostly been cleaned up – but what remains is the foul aftertaste of violence, harassment and threats towards individuals in our community. This is new – what is going on, queer Portland?

The first act of violence during the extended Pride weekend was witnessed at the E Room – where a scuffle/fight broke out at the Gender Bender night. I have heard accounts of the scuffle starting in the Karaoke room, but more than one person mentioned they witnessed a fight in the parking lot. I’m hoping we’ll be able to get an eyewitness account of the happenings. The other acts of violence and harassment took place on Saturday and Sunday, most of them tied to the Blow Pony / Police / Neighbour fiasco that unfolded. I was present at the venue at the time, so for all those who are interested, here is what happened. For all of you who have never been to Blow Pony before, it is held in a ground level bar called Casey’s, with an extra bar/dance floor in a downstairs room called The Eagle Underground. Above Casey’s are apartments.

Most of the trouble seems to have been caused by upstairs neighbours, who allegedly punched one of the event organizers (Airick) in the face and called him a faggot last month. These neighbours had decided to aggravate the usual Blow Po crowds that congregate on the sidewalk to cool off, smoke and chat, by throwing beer and other drinks (I also heard someone say it might have been urine) one people’s heads from their windows.

Caseys Bar sign in Portland - people were pulled out of this door

Casey's Bar sign in Portland - people were pulled out of this door

As a result, partygoers told their friends to not go outside the venue – and then someone called the police (my guess it was likely the upstairs neighbours), who sent a very excitable and bullish officer to the scene, who promptly informed the venue they were over capacity (which Casey’s/Eagle Underground says they were not).
Partygoers who went outside (or even just stuck their head outside) were told they couldn’t re-enter the venue, even with stamps, regardless if they had friends or bags or wallets or drinks inside. The police officer seemed intent on making things worse by shouting at the mass of people through his trusty megaphone from five feet away, instead of addressing the beer-throwing-name-calling situation from above. Tempers started to flare, with people accusing the police and the Blo Po staff of exacerbating the situation. One patron even started shouting at Airick, accusing him of intentionally ripping off patrons, forcing them to pay cover and then not letting them in the venue.

It was clear that most people were hot, mad, and drunk – at one point, it felt a bit like Stonewall 1969, and I have no doubt that if more people were outside and there had been a heavier police presence it would have come to blows. (pun not intended). I also saw people from Blow Po ringing the bells of the apartment upstairs to try and deal with the neighbours – I heard of fights breaking out around the area, people being called names, harassed, insulted, and allegedly someone got their nose broken.  I have also heard that the police were unresponsive to these incidents and didn’t do anything to protect the victims from these attacks. I do not know how and where this happened, so hopefully we will get more information soon.

Police - treat us with respect!

Police - treat us with respect!

The very excited police officer clearly was more intent on kicking people out of Blow Pony and showed little sensitivity to the fact that people were being harassed by the neighbours, but eventually, after enough people told him to DO SOMETHING, he marched upstairs with an excited grin on his face. (I am not making this up. He was very much enjoying himself, it seemed). At that very same moment, the World Naked Bike Ride passed by on Burnside a block or two away, which ostensibly drew patrons away from the venue, and helped defuse a chaotic and charged situation outside of Blow Pony, and at this point I was able to sneak in  the venue. I found it to be half empty – most of the partiers weren’t even aware of the trouble outside. Things calmed down both inside and out, and we kicked it Blo Po style until 2am.

The next incidents of harassment and violence happened at the waterfront and surrounding areas. and some homies were chillin like villians with some beers at the waterfront when a patron and her dog bumped into a group of friends that obviously had some prior beef – there was violent shoving, there were names called, and the group threatened to “wait outside the gates until she comes out” and apparently, beat up the patron with the dog.

On Sunday, a friend of mine was verbally assaulted and threatened in the Pearl by a drunk man, while standing with some friends and a young child. The man insisted on shaking the child’s hand, and when my friend and the child’s mother resisted, he got aggressive, demanding to know whether my friend is gay, threatening her and called her names.  When the police were called, they stated that a report did not need to be filed because “he was being taken into detox”.

Gays are not targets - treat us equal damnit

Gays are targets enough - end queer on queer violence damnit!

And these are only abbreviated experiences of everyone involved and there are probably other acts of violence that I didn’t know about or hear about. But what becomes evident is that despite the fact that we live in a queer-friendly bubble here in Portland, queerphobia and transphobia surround us all, and can strike violently at any time. The police  do not have a history of being supportive of queer people – and what I witnessed this weekend was definitely not a passing grade in terms of police conduct. But what also saddens me is the amount of queer on queer violence and anger: Are we really “waiting for people outside the gates” to beat them up? Are we fighting in parking lots at fundraising events for an individual in our community? Really? Really?

Maybe it’s time to take off our party hats and go back to some grass roots organizing. Maybe it’s time for us to realize that queer people are under attack – and I don’t mean DOMA, I don’t mean Prop 8, I mean right here in our fair city. We can have a big parade – but we can’t get the police to treat us like equals when others assault us.

I have heard rumblings of these kinds of sentiments around our community and there is talk of workshops, a town hall meeting and some old-fashioned queer activism. I will post more as soon as I know it, but the tides are definitely turning, make no mistake.

27 comments to Pride weekend violence – what’s going on, queer Portland?

  • Maj

    My friend helped pull the girls off each other in the Karaoke room.. They were taken outside, after this, I don't know what happened..
    I was not at Blow Pony.. This is really disappointing. They need need to have charges pressed against them. I was disappointed in the police giving clearance to have people throw things and shoot water guns at tthe protesters at the parade… Whether you physically touch people with your person or not, the intent and action is assault.. We all need to recognize this.. Whether it's us or it's them.
    I personally feel like the Mayor needs to comment on this issue.. A str8 mayorr would.. Regardless, there is no reason to be violent and aggro. CONT..

    • tori

      the police ok'd paraders throwing things at protestors? wtf!
      i marshalled at the nyc pride parade for 8 years, 7 of those acting as the 'line of demarkation' between the protestors and the parade, as the parade passed st. pat's cathedral. the very essense of our job (aside from acting as a physical barrier) was to direct the paraders to ignore the protestors. the police didn't even stand in our position, and while there was shouting and pushing, nothing ever crossed the line we formed. that police would ok (which in that atmosphere is more akin to encouragement) such behaviour is willfully detrimental to our position, and i would recommend that a representative of pride n/w be on hand next year to monitor and advise the paraders of what behaviour is ok, and what is not.

  • Maj

    I don't support the agenda stating we are being attacked and we need to organize a gestapo-style attitude, as we have all seen vigilante behaviour go awry, and someone we love always ends up getting hurt..
    Make a stand as a community? ABSOLUTELY!
    We ALL need to know how to protect ourselves, and the common comments from the NOPO crowds have been ones of living in a safety bubble… I'm glad it's finally been burst… If you ignore the problem in other parts of the city where it's more rough and you HAVE to take your own personal safety into account, every time you step off the sidewalk, you soon realize how vulnerable you are..
    This being said, we are all responsible for our own personal safety.. And we need to realize things like this happen to people regardless of race, gender or any otherr class of human status.
    I agree we need to come together as a group and discuss.
    I need to reiterate that staging an all out war against gay-bashers cannot be called for at this time. We have much work to do on many planes of LGBTQIA life.

  • Maj

    I personally seek a peaceful and structured means of dealing with H8 crimes of all nature.. I do disagree with the way the police handled this issue. And they need to know we as a trong community voice are dissatisfied with their actions this weekend when it came to the aggressive behaviours of people.
    We also need to recognize that members of Portland Police did a great job handling the crowds and showing support in other aspects as well, so keep this in mind also..
    Let's take this on in an educated and balanced manner, please…


  • I have since heard that Airick was actually physically assaulted by locals in the area after the event, and is intending to go to the SMRT (sexual minorities round table) next month. I have also invited him to comment on this blog…

    • I was punched in the face a two months prior to Saturday June 13th by a male who was harassing queer men & women outside Blowpony/Caseys, since that event the tenant/s upstairs roof top have been spitting, throwing water balloons, beer, glass bottles and yes cups of urine on top of yelling hateful anti queer remarks, I did try and explain all this on Saturday June 13th to the officer on scene intent on closing BLOWPONY down due to being over capacity, I can say we weren't, he didn't even know there was a joining club downstairs called the Eagle underground until the Owner of Caseys and myself explained. At one point a girl had a full cup of something dumped on her less then 10ft away from this officer, I again asked him what was he going to do before this turns into something more aggressive, his response word for word was " if you don't like move away", I explained that the tenants above are throwing from both sides of the building and there was no place to go for safety, at one point they(the tenant above) even found it funny to throw a glass bottle at the folks riding in the infamous Naked Bike Ride! again the officer did nothing, it wasn't until way later that he finally went upstairs practically laughing and finding the whole series of events funny. Around 2:30 am something went down outside with Heather who dances at BLOWPONY and she had her nose Broke by a man much larger then herself, approx 30 minutes later a group of males walking by the incident with Heather (keep in mind there are two officers on the scene at this time) started to yell anti queer slurs, Jose and Grrr both told them to get out of the area and leave it was at that time Jose got punched and knocked out (again this happened in front of the police), the Police on the scene and new arriving officers began to gather, they kindly asked the attacking male to stand by his car with his friends, they turned on me and several other people (some who were witnesses) and begun to threaten us with being arrested if we did not leave, not once did they ask if we witnessed anything, I told one of the officers I would not leave my friend lying there bleeding, he forcefully pushed me back and said move or I was gonna be arrested, someone behind me grabbed me and moved me on across the street, it was now at this time that the Tenants above 27 NW Sixth ave began to throw beer and other items down onto a few Drag queens passing by and in this situation one particular drag queen was being treated as if she was the problem…. WOW really portland police? I'm not gonna tell anyone reading this not to gather and vent, I'm not gonna tell anyone how to feel on this subject, I'm not gonna tell anyone how to react to such mindless violence, what I will say is how I feel, being a victim to a very serious hate crime in Denver 11 years ago where my back was broke in two places I feel very strongly about this issue, I think we have allowed ourselves to become targets and easy ones at that, I think we have to stand up in some way or another? honestly I can not just sit here anymore and hope everything will be ok when I know that certain groups of people are training on how to kill us, I cannot sit back and wait to hear on the news that yet another trans, queer, dyke have been murdered! being a long time animal activist I realize the how important different fractions of a group can be, if some people feel we need to ACT UP then so be it, if some feel we need to write letters then so be it, if some feel we need to hold Demos then so be it, but it is not fair to ask anyone not to be angry or to not go out and make a stand! I say do what your feelings direct you too. I will be attending the SMRT (sexual minorities round table) next month on July 14th. My love, strength, blessings and thoughts to all of my queer brothers & sisters no matter what form or title you have chosen, I will stand next to you!

      • Kaj-anne

        thank you and well said Airick.

      • Steve

        did anyone happen to get the name of the officers on scene? it may seem futile, but placing a formal complaint to the police department with multiple witnesses, paired with a little bit of press can go a long ways.


  • MAJ- the gestapo was an organization headed by racist, nazi thugs who killed people as part of the regime that destroyed one of my home countries. I personally don't take comparisons with it lihtly, just as a heads up. I appreciate your comments – but I have to say I'm shocked and upset to hear you say you're glad the "Safety bubble" has been burst. Real people have been hurt by these incidents. I understand where you are coming from but as a gay bashing victim, whose "safeft bubble" was burst by getting the shit kicked out of me, it's hard for me stomach hearing that that is something you're glad about.

    And for the record, I have to say I think squirt guns are annoying, but they are not assault, unless they are used in an assaulting way, and throwing condoms (which did) is in my mind not something you do with intention of hurting people. Throwing shit is fine – and throwing punches is not, in my opinion. It's the intent behind it that counts.

    I'm not sure a straight mayor would comment on drunk dykes fighting in the parking lot of a bunch of queerbo freaks getting pelted with beer and insults…i respectfully disagree with that statement. Historically, straight politicians have pretty much always ignored gay causes until forced to engage with them through widespread protest and activism…

  • Maj

    What I am not doing is condoning violence in any way. Now throwing anything, bei it rocks, or condoms is still throwing things At people.

    I used the term gestapo in light of recent ways the Portland Police responded in the era of Mark Kroeker as our Police Chief. Though I cannot retract, I will say my definition regarding my response was loose and was not meant to be taken completely literally, I'll check my grammar more closely.

    We have come out of this a little safer, but to have a call to action within the content of your article was slightly abrasive.

    I am not attacking you or your vews, and my sincere condolences are in order if I have offended in an ignorant manner.

    This said, yes, I DO believe ther is an overall understanding in the North Portland community regarding a false sense of security. This is why I was commenting, and reflecting my agreement with a member of the community who has mentioned this is the case.

    Yes, we have had str8 mayors in the past who have made clear mention that assaulting queer people is really not condoned in this community, hence the reason Portland is a mecca for the GLBTQIA community at this juncture..

  • Maj

    And I have NEVER said it was okay to beat anyone up, need I remind you about my recent marital history, but that's another story..

  • Jose

    I was one of the people who was gay bashed outside of Blowpony, after the bar had closed. I was punched in the mouth and knocked out. The police did nothing to help m. They were aggressive and intimidating. I was unable to answer their questions (to which they responded by laughing and rolling their eyes) and they considered me "uncooperative" and didn't do anything about the man who assaulted me. They never, not once, offered me medical care. They were just going to leave me there, bleeding and disoriented on the corner of NW 6th and Couch. When my friend asked if we could get a ride home, they responded with "we're not a taxi service" and left with the attacker still in the vicinity.
    I am planning on speaking at the Sexual Minorities Roundtable meeting next month. It is July 14th from noon-1:30pm in the Justice Center in the 15th floor conference room. It is an open forum, anyone can speak or just come to show support.
    Thanks to everyone for their love and support. This community is amazing and has so much passion. Please, let's be proactive with this and work to make lasting change!

    • Heather

      thats so fucked, the cops were way nice to me! why cause i'm a gerl and I don't "look" that queer? Fuck That!

      • Clay Neal

        Heather – so sorry that this happened to you last weekend. Give me a call if you want to chat about it or anything else.

        Our office is feeling for you and Jose.

        Clay Neal
        Mayor Adam's LGBTQ liaison

    • Clay Neal

      Jose: I am very sorry that this happened to you and want to be sure that this office is doing what we can to address this issue. Please give me a call so that I can have the order of events completely set before me. I would like to look into this matter on your behalf.

      Clay Neal
      Mayor Adam's LGBTQ Liaison

  • Krys

    This article was posted to me via Facebook. I too have felt the tide change. I just moved home to Portland after 7 years in Olympia WA, and the whole city feels drastically different. I to preach tolerance, and "the more the merrier" but the recent mass influx of people from out-of-state has left me feeling no longer at home, and most importantly, no longer safe. I wish we hadn't promoted Portland as such a wonderful place, because once you do, you lose that wonderful uniqueness, and your "safe-happy bubble". I think we need to organize as a community regardless of being queer, but as Portlandians teach these new people what it means to live and to love here, and why we are so special, and why this is such a great place to live.

    • Kelly

      I have lived in Oregon 8 years…. in Corvallis. I am from NJ and moved here to get away from all the things we know of the east coast, big city. I am extrememly proud to live in a state that has such a wonderful city, Portland. I visit Portland and enjoy Portland… and also hear people all over the country talk about Portland! Krys, I totally agree with your comment and do agree that it doesn't matter who we are…. it is important to teach the new comers exactly what you said. More people will keep coming in the future and the only thing we can do is educate, speak out, and show by example how we want our city to be. I quess what I'm trying to say, is that I loved your comment! Thanks for sharing…..

  • Sarah

    What I want to know is what are we gonna do about it? This is just not okay. We rally for everything under the sun, but somehow I have not heard much about htis until now. I know it's only been a couple days – but really. Get the word out for organizing something…I'm in.

  • I like to be proactive about issues like these so… I am offering my skills as a documentary videographer and connections with Portland Community Media to do a short piece on this to air on PCM TV with the synopsis being that this needs to change which I think everyone can agree on. I would love to work with someone from qpdx for some narration and copy. email cog dot pdx at gmail dot com if you would like to be interviewed about these events or contact me through the FB group.

  • thank you for all of your comments – i know that something is still in the works and we will be posting more information about what actions we can take as a group as soon as it becomes available.

    I know that my friend Audrey has successfully contacted the police who are charging the man who threatened her with harassment, which is good news..

  • Dear Mayor Sam Adams, I would like to know what are you and when are you going to do something about the recent Gay attacks in Portland? I think many queer folk have the same question on their heads…WHAT & WHEN? WHAT & WHEN? WHAT & WHEN? we voted for you, now please do your job and address these attacks!

    • Dear Readers:

      The Mayor's office is extremely disturbed by the accounts of violence against members of the LGBTQ community during Pride weekend and at any time. Since learning of the altercations, Mayor Adams and Commissioner Saltzman (Commissioner in charge of the Portland Police Bureau) have asked the Police Bureau to inform our offices of any information related to the investigation around these incidents.

      We also want to hear from you. If you would like to get in touch with Mayor Adams's office on issues relating to the LGBTQ communtiy, PLEASE call or email me at 503.823.4128 or .

      I look forward to hearing from you all and working together to make our community safe for everyone.

      ~Clay Neal
      Mayor Adam's LGBTQ Liaison

  • James

    Spraying squirt guns at people in public places can be considered confrontational. I was in an argument with a roommate years ago and when the police ended up coming after I was punched in the face 4 times, I was told I started it by pointing at the other person while arguing with them. Something that seems harmless can get you in trouble…

  • David Smoot

    If neither the police nor the Mayor will defend us, can we open fire on the upper apartment floor windows of the bus mall if we see guns pointing at us?