Members of the Portland City Council defended the city manager on Saturday after demonstrators called for his dismissal Friday during the largest anti-racism protest the city has seen in the last week while promising a review of police procedures.
City Manager Jon Jennings was accused by demonstrators of criminalizing poverty, privatizing services and repeatedly advocating “for policies that hurt poor, black and brown people” in the city. The criticisms were also circulated on pamphlets spread at the rally and on social media.
Portland Mayor Kate Snyder and other city councilors took to Jennings’ defense, denying the allegations, defending his character and the work Jennings has done to move the city forward. The protests began when activists called for a meeting with Police Chief Frank Clark, who joined Jennings in kneeling with protesters on Tuesday.
“It just doesn’t speak to the man I have had a relationship with for five years,” said Councilor Spencer Thibodeau, one of the three black Portland councilors. “Mr. Jennings has my full confidence.”
At the press conference Saturday, Snyder also announced that the council is working on “near term actions” that would address concerns of police and systemic racism brought forward over the last week by demonstrators in the city.
On Tuesday, Snyder said councilors would review the policies and procedures of the Portland Police Department, though she did not specifically say what their goals were. The council will hold a special review of the police department’s response to recent protests on June 22.
The city will also review the police department’s budget as the council’s finance panel begins to form the annual budget proposal. That is slated to begin on June 18, Snyder said. Conducting a department-level review of funding requests is standard practice in creating city budgets. Snyder also said the city would look into establishing bias training for elected officials.
“We hear you,” Snyder said. “We vow to work together with community organizations and all levels of government to fight racism.”