Category: Articles

Community support at Chapman Square

Edited by Andrew Wilkins

I’ve been hearing the words, “community support” and “mutual aid” being tossed around a lot lately, generally being offered as an alternative to relying on often under-funded or inefficient government services.

But what does mutual aid look like? How does a community offer support? Well, a good example is Riot Ribs.

Riot Ribs is a small group of volunteers who have organized on the corner of SW 3rd Avenue & SW Salmon Street, right across the street from the Multnomah County Justice Center in downtown Portland.

They’re just a handful of folks with grills offering free food to anyone who wants it, living and operating out of Chapman Square.

The side of the blue tent where Riot Ribs operates. Signs hanging on it say “Free BBQ” and “Riot Ribs, Food is Free, Donations Appreciated”.
Photo by Rosie Riddle

They started when one man showed up to the nightly protests in Chapman Square with his grill, some ribs, and a desire to see folks get fed. Soon after a group formed and took over when he left.

They’ve since been operating 24 hours a day, for 8 days straight, stopping only long enough to sleep for a couple hours, before getting back to grilling. They’re offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner to all comers, and asking for donations in order to keep running.

That’s the community support part.

They’re entirely community run, being all volunteers working for free, grilling up food entirely donated by the community, or purchased with money similarly donated.

Most of their volunteers are houseless folks who understand what it’s like to not have their needs met; folks who want to make sure that the folks in the area have what they need.

A sign outside the tent where Riot Ribs is cooking that reads, “By Community, For Community”.
Photo by Rosie Riddle

I had the opportunity to speak with Isaiah, one of the folks grilling for Riot Ribs. He told me that part of their mission is to “empower folks to stay out there 24/7 and to support their community”.

Isaiah also told me that they have no intention of stopping any time soon. He said, “as long as there is a line for food we’re going to keep cooking”. In fact, they recently spent about 53 hours straight cooking, because the line simply never let up.

When asked if they had any long term goals for Riot Ribs, Isaiah said that they would like to start a restaurant here in Portland, and eventually expand to have food trucks in Seattle and down in San Fransisco as well. But they said that’s a long ways off and for now their only goal is to keep making sure that when people are hungry, they are fed.

At the prompting of, and with the help of, one of their volunteers (who asked to be referred to only as Beans) they’ve started a social media account on Twitter (@RiotRibs). Through this account, they are able to update the community on the things they need, and also post occasional status updates when necessary.

An info-graphic for Riot Ribs showing their Twitter handle, explaining what they do, and showing a list of items for donation that they are accepting.

Isaiah and another of the volunteers there, called Lil Dill, both have prior experience with food service, and work hard to make sure that the grill is constantly filled with everything from ribs and burgers, to vegan patties, and occasionally hot dogs.

They also often are able to offer sides to go with their barbecue whenever donations allow it.

I had a chance to try some lamb ribs straight off of the grill at one point and their skill in the kitchen is plainly apparent.

A picture of some ribs on the grill, with fire leaping up above them.
Photo by Rosie Riddle

As for mutual aid, while I was talking with the kind folks of Riot Ribs, I witnessed them asking to borrow a wheeled cart from a nearby group, The Witches, and in exchange they sent over a plate of their grilled goodies.

Later on in the night, Riot Kitchen, who had been doing something very similar to Riot Ribs but up in Seattle at the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest, dropped by to donate all the food they had left, after police shut them down.

One of the folks who helped to run Riot Kitchen, called Mayhem, told me they had so much food left over and didn’t want to see it go bad, so they decided to come on down to Portland and see about setting up shop feeding folks down here, only to be surprised that Riot Ribs was already taking care of them.

I was absolutely blown away by everything I saw while I was talking with the folks of Riot Ribs, from their absolute dedication to supporting their community, to the lines forming outside the tent, forty-people long, for hours on end, to their commitment to upholding food and safety guidelines even given the fact they were operating out of a tent.

These people are, in my opinion, what community support is all about and I think that the hundreds of people they feed each day would agree with me.

A picture of Riot Ribs, the grill in the foreground, the tent in the background. Pictured are Isaiah and Lil Dill who are “just vibing”, their faces blacked out for their privacy.
Photo by Beans, @ComradeBeana on Twitter

The rise and fall of Portland’s “Elk”: 1900 – 2020

Published by Village Portland on July 7, 2020
Edited by Andrew Wilkins

In 1900, the 3,000-pound bronze “Elk” statue was erected between the Plaza Blocks in downtown Portland.

On July 2nd, after standing for 120 years, the elk was removed.

The elk was erected atop a fountain, with the intent of providing a watering hole and gathering place by the former mayor David P. Thompson. Serving from 1879 – 1882, Thompson commissioned the fountain and statue for the city in 1900.

“Yesterday’s Tomorrow – A Portland Journey” by Uncage the Soul Productions

Located in what used to be a feeding ground for elk, it has served its intended purpose, being a focal point and gathering spot at several times during the last month as the Black Lives Matter movement has held demonstrations at the nearby Multnomah County Justice Center.

However, during the last week, Portlanders have gathered more and more around the statue. On July 1st a fire was set around the base of the fountain and was kept burning for hours, a welcome heat on that chilly night.

The elk was featured in a number of images and live streams over the course of the night.

The Elk of Chapman Square on its final night atop its fountain, surrounded by fire and smoke.

The elk of downtown between Portland’s Plaza Blocks on its final night atop its fountain, surrounded by fire and smoke.
Photo by Donovan Farley, @DonovanFarley

As a result of the fire, the Portland Police Bureau launched an investigation, calling the damage left by the fire vandalism.

The Regional Arts and Culture Council, at the request of the City, also launched an investigation. After inspecting the fountain and the base upon which the statue sits, they decided that the damage to the stone fountain was severe enough that the statue could potentially topple and harm Portlanders in the process. 

So on July 2nd, after one hundred twenty years, the proud bronze elk statue was removed.

The City has stated that the elk is now in storage, with no plans so far for what will come next for the shiny four-legged icon.

Not to be deterred from their gathering, Portlanders have replaced the bronze elk statue with what is being called the tiny elk, pictured below, on the 4th of July. But protesters have refrained from lighting any more large fires at the base of the fountain.

A tiny elk placed atop a bundle of sticks taped together. There is a small fire nearby as a flag burns on what was the statues base. Photo by: @45thabsurdist

A tiny elk placed atop a bundle of sticks taped together. There is a small fire nearby as a flag burns on what was the statues base.
Photo by @45thabsurdist

The tiny elk has been present at the demonstrations every night since it was first placed, as a tribute to our fallen friend.

Mainstream media is scamming indie journalists

Published by Village Portland on August 1, 2020
Edited by Andrew Wilkins

Photo by Rosie Riddle

The estimated net worth of NBC is $35 billion as of July 2020. 

The combined salaries of four of the top five news anchors working for ABC News is reported to be $20 million. 

KOIN 6 News is an affiliate of CBSwhose market value is about $18 billion.

These are just some of the major news outlets that reached out to me a few weeks ago when footage I took of Multonomah County Sheriff Officers t-boning a motorist with their squad car after a protest against police brutality caught their attention.

This footage was viewed over two hundred thousand times, showing police stopping a vehicle attempting to obey their dispersal orders, breaking the Portlander’s window, and then t-boning their vehicle with a MCSO vehicle when they tried to escape a terrifying situation.


Throughout the two months of protests that have been happening in Portland, Oregon, major news outlets have been reaching out to many freelance journalists here.

All too often our local journalists— who are putting their life and well being on the line every night in attempts to show the world what is happening here— are not offered compensation of any kind.

For me personally, these attempts to license my footage were particularly insulting.

On top of being asked to give up the rights to the footage that I took at my own risk and without any compensation, I was refered to as a “community member” and a “citizen journalist”, a term which apparently means “a journalist that I don’t expect to have to pay”.

This is despite presenting myself in every interaction as a freelance journalist, a job which I did previously for nearly two years. I have begun working as a freelance journalist again during these Black Lives Matter protests— and have seen many of the journalists out there being injured and burnt out while covering all of this.


When Danny Peterson of KOIN 6 News contacted me, he offered “attribution” for the video, which he asked to put on KOIN’s website. KOIN’s website had a reported 1.71 million views in June of 2020 alone. 

When I informed him that in addition to attribution as, “a freelance journalist, Rosie Riddle”, specifically, I also required compensation for the use of my footage.

He claimed that he would ask his editor as, “we’ve done this before for freelancers”. A statement which to me indiciated that they were indeed in the habit of taking footage for free, something I would find out later is a fairly standard practice in journalism.

Erin Calabrese also contacted me from ABC News. They asked if I would, “agree to allow ABC News and its licensees to use and distribute it without restriction in all media” and linked me to a document showing their media licensing agreement which included a paragraph about how they would not pay for my footage, and several paragraphs about how they would be free to use it without restriction in any way, including distributing it to other networks.

Incensed by these interactions and these networks apparent disregard for the danger I had to put myself in in order to create this footage, I tweeted about it, calling on major networks to pay the journalists who’s work they wanted to use.

I also called out KOIN specifically for having been there, on the ground, but they left moments before the police began to be violent towards the protesters who were doing little else but chanting. 

A tweet calling on major networks to pay jornalists for the work we do, showing screenshots of direct messages I had recieved from two such networks.

It wasn’t until the day after these interactions that Suzanne Ciechalski contacted me with NBC News. They asked me about my licensing fees in the initial message, and directly linked to the footage they were asking to use, a first on both counts for these interactions.

I quoted them at slightly higher than my research indicated was an acceptable rate for someone as unknown as I am in journalism, and several hours later they asked for my email to send their standard licensing agreement for me to sign.

A day later I received said email, and had further questions, as the wording throughout was unclear and seemed to indicate that they would be able to source any of my footage, at any time, without contacting me. This left me to have to figure out that they were using it and invoice them to collect my fee, which they stated they would pay “within 75 days”. 

After sorting out my questions, and being told that I was mis-understanding their licensing agreement, I signed it and sent it back to them. Unfortunately by this point they had lost interest in using the footage they had originally contacted me for. I was told that if I produced anything else they were interested in, I would be contacted again. 


Photo by Rosie Riddle

All this is to say, by and large, it seems to me like major news outlets do not value their freelance counterparts. In the day of the 24-hour news cycle and public interest moving on from things at the speed of the internet, I understand why there is a rush to source footage and get it into the public eye as quickly as possible. I can also see why licensing and payment agreements hold this process up.

But similarly, we live in the age of Cash App and Venmo and being able to pay people for their work near instantly.

Asking freelance journalists, who often don’t have access to the same tools and resources that big news outlets have to write invoices and sign legal documents we may or may not understand, seems like a deliberate effort to force our hand and say, “well exposure is good too, I guess”.

But frankly, until we live in a world where the cost of living isn’t a barrier to working for free, this is unacceptable.