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Posts published in “Day: November 28, 2010”

Pioneer Square: What happened, what didn’t

Courthouse Pioneer Square, the Sunday after/

After a couple of days of news reports, a lot of the central questions about the abortive bombing of Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square remain. We're beginning to know enough, though, to come to come conclusions and at least shape some of the relevant questions.

Some of those came out in this morning's coverage in the Oregonian, of a story with still-massive holes (not the paper's fault, of course - a lot hasn't been released or isn't available yet).

The choice of time and place was, as columnist Steve Duin notes, chosen well for effectiveness. It's been nicknamed "Portland's living room," and there's really nothing else like it among the larger Northwest cities - a genuine community gathering place in the middle of downtown, where street preachers may be shouting one hour, an arts display may be on the next, and a film or music event might be shown in the evening, while people all day come by and hang out. If Portland feels like a community, and has something of a neighborly feel (for large city), Pioneer Square is an important reason. You feel as if you're welcome to just drop by and sit a spell - and you are. The Christmas tree lighting there, for central Portlanders, is second only to the tree setup in their own homes. An attack on the square is an attack on the community, in a unique way.

Adopt the Transportation Security mindset about dealing with such a threat, and what do you get? Backscatter devices on all the sidewalks? Pat-downs en route to and around downtown? Talk about destroying any feeling of community, or mutual trust.

One conclusion we evidently can reach out of this is that such tactics weren't what foiled this bombing attempt: It was intelligence, information, patient undercover law enforcement work, the kind of effort that almost always is what stops incidents like this.

Saying much more specific than that remains difficult, though, because so many questions are still out there right now. (more…)