Portland residents scared to visit trashed downtown amid riots: poll

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The constant protest is taking its toll on the Rose City.

Residents in the metro area surrounding Portland, Oregon, say the city’s downtown is dirty, unsafe and uninviting, and they don’t expect to visit as often, a poll commissioned by The Oregonian found.

Residents described the city’s core as “destroyed,” “trashed,” and “sad,” and frequently referred to “riots” in discussing the city’s economic and cultural hub.

The perception could have a serious impact on the city’s recovery from the pandemic recession.

In the poll, 85 percent said downtown was important, or very important, to the city’s economy. More than 100,000 people worked there prior to the pandemic, about 1 in every 20 jobs in the state.

While 63 percent of respondents said they see downtown as less safe, 86 percent said they feel safe in their own neighborhoods. The main issues they cited were cleanliness and crime.

Yet 61 percent said restaurants and bars reopening will draw them back.

Fewer protests would make the city more appealing according to 55 percent. That echoed comments from the mayor, who said last month it was time to “take our city back” from violent protesters.

Another big problem is homelessness. As workers stayed home to stem the spread of the coronavirus, there was a sharp increase downtown in the number of people camping on the streets, particularly in Old Town Chinatown, which is across the street from the main office district.

City officials did not clear campsites or move homeless people to shelters for fear of exposing them to COVID-19.

At the same time, the city became a symbol of the worst unrest triggered by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May. Protests continued for 100 nights, drawing a harsh response from the Trump administration.

The biggest protests downtown stopped but sporadic violence has continued, with rogue bands of vandals attacking businesses. As a result, many downtown businesses still have plywood over their windows, adding to the atmosphere of crisis.

Poll respondent Myrna Brown said that before the pandemic she frequently visited downtown, soaking in the sights and festivals with her 13-year-old son. “He’s very afraid to go downtown now,” said Brown. “He loved to go down just to the waterfront and walk around. He loved to go to Saturday Market. These are things that cannot happen anymore.”

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