Sarah Iannarone, the self-described “antifa” candidate running against Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, refused to condemn the violent antifa rioters attacking officers and threatening innocent bystanders on the streets of Portland. KGW Channel 8 Straight Talk host Laural Porter gave Iannarone, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), a softball question, asking her to condemn the violence without denouncing the protests that give birth to nightly riots. Even so, she could not bring herself to condemn the violence.
Porter noted that Police Chief Chuck Lovell wrote a New York Times op-ed expressing sympathy with Black Lives Matter protesters but denouncing the violence.
“Police Chief Lovell is asking the community to denounce the late-night protests, the smaller group of protesters who are causing damage, setting fires, throwing bricks at officers. He and other black community leaders and activists say it’s taking away from the Black Lives Matter message,” Porter said. “He cited how people broke into the Justice Center, destroyed the first-floor interior, lit fires with people inside the building, there was looting and destruction. Another night, individuals screwed the doors of the North Precinct building shut, barricaded entrances, lit fires with people inside.”
“Nearby businesses, some owned by people of color, were damaged and looted. Some protesters have shot off commercial-grade fireworks, and Wednesday night … we saw more fires set outside the East Precinct,” Porter continued. “Do you denounce this kind of behavior, separate from the larger, more peaceful protests, Sarah?”
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Iannarone dodged the question.
“They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I would have to go back prior to this uprising to work on the issues that are causing these folks to be angry in the streets, working on police accountability,” she said. “And so I know that nobody controls a social movement, and the mayor really isn’t the person to quell popular protests.”
The antifa candidate then did something astounding. Even though Porter had distinguished between the protests and the riots, and asked Iannarone about the riots, the candidate added, “But we need to understand these protests are an important part of a healthy democracy.”
Porter, incredulous, pressed again, “But what about the criminal activity we’re seeing? Do you denounce that part of it?”
“I understand why they’re angry,” the antifa candidate replied.
“But lighting fires with people inside the building? Would you denounce that part of it with lighting fires, arson with people inside buildings?” the host asked again.
After a delay, the socialist candidate responded, “I’m not the person setting the fires, I’m not the person doing the graffiti, I’m not here to tell people how to protest.”
Porter cut her off, “But will you denounce it? So you won’t denounce it?”
“I don’t smash windows. I clean up when things are unfairly targeted, but here’s what I have to say. Their outrage at the police is valid and the problem of police brutality and executing black lives in the streets is more important than petty vandalism to me,” the antifa candidate replied.
Yes, Iannarone dismissed the arson attacks that even Mayor Ted Wheeler — who had previously debased himself to defend the rioters — described as “attempted murder” as nothing more than “petty vandalism.” Antifa rioters in Portland have fired commercial-grade fireworks at police officers, shone lasers in their eyes to blind them, and attempted to barricade them in burning buildings, but this antifa candidate says all that is just “petty vandalism.”
Returning to the violence, Porter asked, “How does that move the city forward? How does this criminal activity we’re seeing late at night this fringe group not the large peaceful protests… How does that move the city closer to racial equity and racial justice, the kinds of reforms that the Black Lives Matter movement wants?”
Rather than addressing this question, Iannarone attacked Porter, saying, “Black Portland is not a monolith.”
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Pressed again, the antifa candidate added, “I don’t condone violence, but I’m also going to continue to make sure that our focus stays on Black Lives Matter protests.”
Iannarone then accused Chief Lovell of using “police brutality” to silence the Black Lives Matter movement.
“The police have not done a good job of policing the police and so for Chief Lavelle to respond to protests about police brutality with more police brutality, it undermines what we’re trying to accomplish,” the antifa candidate said. “We need Portland Police deescalating, not declaring riots and then tear-gassing rioters and then beating them with batons in the streets as we saw last night.”
Then she added this ominous statement: “Peaceful protests, in my opinion, might not necessarily be moving the conversation forward.”
That led Porter to bring up Iannarone’s previous remarks to Playboy. The self-described antifa candidate said, “It’s important we use radical tactics.”
Porter asked, “What radical tactics specifically, are you talking about? Are you talking about some of the things we’re seeing in the streets?”
Iannarone dodged. Rather than discussing tactics, she defended her political goals as “radical,” in the style of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)
“What’s radical is defunding militarization and investing in food pantries. What’s radical is stopping the militarization of our police force and making sure that our families have access to universal pre-K programs,” the antifa candidate said. “These right-wing types call me an anarchist and a communist and a terrorist because they’re scared of progressives who stand up to bullies. We’ve seen it again and again. And there are right-wing smears out here who try to make being anti-fascist something you should be against.”
“It’s 2020. I don’t want our country turning into what we see on The Handmaid’s Tale,” Iannarone said. “We have to stand up to white nationalists, we have to oppose racism.”
With this kind of rhetoric, Iannarone is claiming that her radical pro-abortion, anti-police, and socialist policies are hip, mainstream, and the natural antidote to the evil conservatives. To hear her tell it, Republicans are just fascists in need of punching. But the existence of police is not inherently fascist or oppressive, antifa rioters really are terrorizing the streets of Portland, and pro-lifers have nothing like The Handmaid’s Tale in mind.
Tragically, Iannarone (like AOC) represents the culmination of the left’s cultural and political activism over the last few decades — and it’s terrifying. Violence, mayhem, and attempted murder are happening on the streets of Portland, and the only candidate who has a chance of beating Ted Wheeler is even more radical than he is.
In fact, this antifa candidate tweeted, “F**k you, Ted Wheeler.” In November, Portlanders will get a choice between a mayor who covered for antifa violence for nearly two months before changing his tune, and a self-described antifa candidate who refuses to condemn attempted murder. Only in Portland would Ted Wheeler be the saner option.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.