The angels of Portland appeared after the riot, bearing graffiti remover, acetone, scrubbers, gloves, and garbage bags.
They immediately put whatever they had to work, showing their own kind of greatness with labor that was its own sweet reward.
Many of them shared the sentiments of those who were shocked and dismayed by Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election.
All of them were propelled by the feeling that had filled the college student who had organized them, Jacob Dahlberg of Portland Community College.
He had been doing his homework when he looked up to see a live news feed of the rampage by vandals who had broken away from Thursday’s otherwise peaceful anti-Trump protest in that Oregon city.
“I just couldn’t believe my eyes,” Dahlberg recalled to The Daily Beast. “I knew there was going to be some sort of need for people to take action.”
The 26-year-old computer-science and business major searched online for anybody who was organizing volunteers to help repair the damage. He saw nothing.
“So, I just created an event page that has now gone viral,” he said.
He soon had 2,000 followers for an event he dubbed Portland Cleanup Volunteer Effort. Then he composed a description that read:
“Let’s clean up this city and show the Portland Spirit. I will be at Tanner Springs Park to offer a hand needed to help clean up Portland. A peaceful protest was hijacked and turned into vandalism and that is not what Portland is about. We will show kindness and love to all and keep Portland GREAT!”
He set the time and place to assemble as 8 a.m. Friday at Tanner Springs Park. He hopped a bus early the next morning to arrive downtown a half-hour beforehand at one of the sites he had seen trashed on the live feed. He conducted a damage survey as he worked his way up what had been the route of the march.
He thereby had a notion of the magnitude of the task when he joined a troop of volunteers in the park at the assigned hour. They concluded that time and supplies would not allow them to address immediately everything that needed doing.
“What we tried to focus on was getting rid of the profanity and threats and stuff like that,” Dahlberg later said.
Everybody set to work. A good laugh came with a message from a volunteer at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and East Burnside Street:
“MLK & Burnside ‘Trump is my homie’ lol can we get that too”
The others kept on after Dahlberg had to leave for his job at a Sephora store at noon. He returned that night as the vandals went at it again. He was back out there Saturday morning with more damage to repair.
The other volunteers included 21-year-old Stephanie Pettro, who is studying bioresource research at Oregon State University in Corvallis. She had also watched the rampage online.
“We have to make this right,” she recalled thinking.
Pettro had planned to spend the day with her mother, Heather Pettro, in Corvallis. They instead drove the 85 miles to Portland with paint remover and microfiber gloves, plus a knife for scraping. They started on words scrawled with a silver paint pen across the side of a building.
“I believe it was a motel,” Stephanie recalled. “It had the words ‘Kill Trump’ written.”
The paint remover did the job. She proceeded on to some concrete where somebody had left a message with purple spray paint. She scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed.
“It was harder to get spray paint out of concrete, that’s for sure,” she later said. “I got the word ‘Fuck,’ but definitely not ‘Trump.’”
She had better luck with the same words on a steel utility box, taking before and after pictures that showed she had removed every trace of the vandalism. She then returned to the more challenging concrete.
“My hands are pretty sore from it,” she said afterward. “It was very tough on my hands. I actually have spray paint stuck to my skin.”
Pettro noted that she did not vote for Trump and quickly added that the outcome of the election in no way justified the destruction. She further noted that any political differences meant nothing among the volunteers.
“When we were all cleaning it up, it didn’t really matter how or what we voted,” she sad.
Also out there was 21-year-old Vee Reyes, who is on her way to becoming an underwater welder. She was accompanied by her mother, Lilia Garcia, and sister, Mia Ortiz, and the sister’s boyfriend, Marco Garcia. Reyes was particularly shocked by the graffiti on the trees.
“That got me, like, why the trees?” she later said. “Trees are life. Trees are the reason why we’re breathing. Without trees, there would be no life on earth.”
They took due care as they commenced to remedy what seemed a sacrilege.
“For the trees, we didn’t use any chemicals,” she reported. “We have little scrubber thingies.”
They managed to get both “Fuck” and “Trump” off the trees. They then let loose with the chemicals on a stone wall, sisters and mother, working together.
“We got most of it off,” she said. “It was a tough one.”
Reyes was very clear in her views regarding the vandals.
“They’re making us look like horrible people destroying things,” she said. “They don’t now what they’re fighting for, just breaking things, destroying. They’re making it worse for everyone.”
She was grateful for an opportunity to help undo the damage.
“It was an honor helping out with my family,” she said. “I felt so good.”
She posted photos of them at work, all smiling.
“Beautiful family doing beautiful things together,” somebody rightly commented.
Another post was meant for all the angels of Portland:
“These are the heroes who come out and clean up the aftermath of the irresponsible destruction. How we love you and your example to make America safe for our families and loved ones to reside. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts and the example you have set are those I want my children and grandchildren to aspire after!”