DOJ attorneys blast Portland for hiding 2018 police-training slideshow with Proud Boys meme

DOJ attorneys blast Portland for hiding 2018 police-training slideshow with Proud Boys meme

The slide in question was revealed late last week by Mayor Ted Wheeler, who explained that it had come to the city’s attention as a result of a lawsuit filed over PPB’s use of force. Wheeler denounced the meme, saying he was “disgusted that this offensive content” was part of a police training presentation. PPB Chief Chuck Lovell called it “contrary to PPB’s values and what we are trying to achieve as an organization.’’

The meme at the end of the PPB’s 110-slide training presentation on crowd control was authored by notorious Proud Boy figure Kyle Chapman.

It featured a photo of a man wearing body armor and a helmet punching a long-haired protester, accompanied by faux scriptural-style text describing the author’s disgust with “dirty hippy” protesters and extolling people who commit violence against them “with hat, and with bat.”

The meme in fact is known as the “Prayer of the Alt-Knight,” produced by the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights (FOAK), a short-lived offshoot of the Proud Boys, described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as its “tactical defense arm.” Cofounded by a notoriously violent Proud Boy named Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman in 2017 (along with Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes), intended “for those that possess the Warrior Spirit.  The weak or timid need not apply,” as Chapman put it. Chapman is credited as the meme’s author.

By 2019, FOAK had declined into inactivity, largely due to Chapman’s multiple arrests for assault and the conditions of the probation he found himself under as a result: : for hitting a Texas man over the head with a barstool, for fighting a person in Berkeley while filming a promotional video, and for operating a vehicle off-road. He recently attempted to set up an explicitly white-nationalist version of the Proud Boys he called “Proud Goys,” a reference to their belief that Jews secretly control American society.

Last month, Chapman was arrested in Boise, Idaho, for assaulting a health-care provider at a hospital where had been intubated with pneumonia. The judge in that case issued a no-contact order and maintained his bond at $100,000, which he later met.

The meme was incorporated at the end of a 110-slide PowerPoint presentation created by yet-unnamed PPB employees in 2018 to be used in training officers in how to deal with public protests. The rest of the slideshow is entirely comprised of non-satirical information on crowd-control tactics, which in fact appear to have been used by Portland police during protests in 2019 and particularly in 2020.

City officials say the presentation was rediscovered by a PPB employee in September 2021 while reviewing records requested as part of discovery in a lawsuit brought by the nonprofit Don’t Shoot Portland. That suit is focused primarily on PPB’s use of aggressive tactics against Portlanders during 2020 racial justice protests. The city made the existence of the slideshow public only last week because it was due to be revealed in a court filing in the lawsuit.

Wheeler initiated an investigation into the slideshow. City officials say their initial inquiry indicates the training material was intended for officers from the various police agencies in the region that provide officers to serve as members of PPB’s Rapid Response or Mobile Response teams, which frequently comprise a significant component of the police presence at Portland protests.

The revelation incurred the wrath of DOJ attorneys Jonas Geissler and Jared D. Hager, whose section in the civil-rights division oversees Portland’s compliance with the 2014 settlement agreement. They complained that they had been a given a heads-up about the information less than 24 hours before it was released to the press.

“The night before, the city informed us for the first time about what the city described as an ongoing internal investigation to determine who authored certain RRT training slides that have varying degrees of offensive content, incorrect guidance, and false or misleading information related to PPB’s crowd management policies and practices,” the attorneys wrote.

The presentation itself, they said, should have been reported to DOJ in 2018, “when they were developed,” a requirement of the 2014 settlement agreement.

“Some PPB and city employees knew or should have known about these materials for years,” they wrote. “The City Attorney’s Office has reportedly known about them since at least September 2021. Had we known about this RRT training, we might have proposed additional remedies. The United States reserves its rights under the agreement related to this matter.”

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