RIOTS AND RESULTS

Mary Strachan Scriver
5 min readJan 12, 2021

The metaphor of standing in a pool of gasoline while our enemies light matches is not exaggerated when we consider that so much of our economy is controlled by fossil fuel and how disruptive it is when that changes. January 6 was not quite as deadly as our now-familiar school shootings, but the whole country has “gone postal” and little wonder with all the disruption of loss of jobs and shelter.

“The expression derives from a series of incidents from 1986 onward in which United States Postal Service (USPS) workers shot and killed managers, fellow workers, and members of the police or general public in acts of mass murder. Between 1970 and 1997, more than 40 people were killed by current or former employees in at least 20 incidents of workplace rage. Between 1986 and 2011, workplace shootings happened roughly twice per year, with an average of 11.8 people killed per year.”

Maybe now that the phenomenon has come home to the Capitol, the Congress can turn its attention away from being re-elected and tend to the matter. They aren’t all hysterical valley girls. Jason Crow, Democratic Representative and veteran, armed only with a ballpoint pen, was ready to defend his colleagues in the hours of invasion. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTmp-QrXmxQ

Here’s where I get personal, so necessarily trivial. I’ve started two sort of semi-riots as an animal control officer. The first one was almost funny. At Laurelhurst Park in Portland, a lovely former farm with a pond that was once meant for livestock, I had miraculously finished all my complaints for the day but still had an hour on shift left. My truck was full of dogs, delighted to be with so many other dogs and to be going somewhere. I pulled through Laurelhurst and began walking around handing out applications for dog licenses. There were plenty of loose dogs, but I didn’t try to pick them up.

“Dog-catchers” are a favorite object of contempt and laughter and that idea caught fire. Suddenly there was a crowd around me, the locked door to the back of the truck was broken and jammed shut, and the air in my tires was let out. I had a radio in the truck and though a hefty half-naked man jammed himself in with me, I called the shelter and asked them to get someone to come with a compressed air tank.

A listening other AC officer didn’t fool around and called in to Portland PD the code for “officer in trouble.” They came in moments. By that time I was sitting on the hood of the truck, lecturing the crowd about what happens to dogs to are transported to somewhere that they don’t know and owners can’t find them. I was holding a little dog that kept trying to lick my face. Half a dozen squad cars parked around us and the sergeant on duty, a tall female red-head, took charge. No police said anything to me. Sunburned young people scattered with their dogs, including the one I’d been holding.

I’d thrown a match into gasoline. The results were lucky but I should have known that I was by my very presence a trigger for disorder on a warm spring day where everyone had been covertly drinking.

The second event was more serious. The complaint was that a teen was siccing his dog on other kids during the lunch hour when a crowd was milling on the grounds. This was true but no one had been bitten yet. Wearing my authoritarian attitude, I plowed into the crowd, and addressed the young man, who sneered. So I grabbed the collar of the dog to keep his attention.

He freaked and other delinquents helped him strangle me, but I wouldn’t let go. All I could think was not to fall, because then I’d be kicked. The kids didn’t scatter, even though a faculty member was yelling at them from a window. In fact, they pressed in tighter. Finally the dog’s collar broke and the boy ran off with it. No one came out from the school.

I pressed charges. We sat around the table in “Juvie Court” where the judge had the boy’s file in front of him. It was about a foot thick. The judge rebuked him, there was no fine or jail time. He sneered.

A few weeks later I spotted the boy and the dog separated by a few blocks. In seconds I had that dog locked into the truck and was driving away when the boy threw himself over the hood and pounded on the windshield. I just drove slowly until he slid off. When the boy and his dad finally showed up at the shelter to get the dog back, it cost them a few hundred dollars in fines, license, and whatever other charges we could think up. I wasn’t there.

Both incidents were in the Seventies but I’ve thought about them ever since. There’s a lot of material to read, but I’m busy just remembering the feelings and trying to understand what in my background made me have such poor judgement. At the time I had not yet become the education coordinator for AC because there was no such program — I created it. My boss had the idea and gave me every support.

But I was raised to handle things on my own. That’s the way my mother was raised so she passed it on to me. One brother was in the Marines, an MP, when the Watts riots happened, and his unit was almost sent into that much more serious melee. He said just thinking about what could happen was terrifying, but never considered not going. It was a kind of Irish hillbilly ethic and came from growing up on isolated farms, dealing alone with big livestock and machines. The Sons of Anarchy ethic doesn’t always work in a city.

Other officers would refuse to enter a situation they thought was dangerous. But I believed that the definition of the job was to enter danger and solve it. I wasn’t the only one. Officer Ruiz was the one who caught the young lion that was loose.

The public believed we had magic means. In fact, when I became EC, I organized sessions with other animal handlers in the city and the zoo veterinarian helped us get a tranq gun. We had a veterinarian on the staff by then and he became good at it. Not naturally a shooter, he was a conservative Christian just a bit short of retirement but highly conscientious so he practiced on cardboard boxes we had scrawled with targets.

Both Anwar Sadat and Indira Gandhi were assassinated by their own protective guard. There is evidence that the guardsmen and police were part of the planning for the invasion of the Capitol on July 6. If this inauguration goes forward outdoors, it is suggested to station snipers ready to shoot the supposedly protective armed guards of Biden. It has come to this in our magnificent country. And I know where the beginning was in the Seventies. Just under the surface, powered by people who take things into their own hands, because that’s all they know, their own small worlds — often deformed.

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Mary Strachan Scriver

Born in Portland when all was calm just before WWII. Educated formally at NU and U of Chicago Div School. Clergy for ten years. Always happy on high prairie.