On June 27th, Portland was breaking heat records, as a group of anarchists and other leftists were hauling supplies into a homeless encampment.

“I knew you guys would come,” a resident said. They expected the presence of mutual aid, a longtime, unsung presence in the City of Roses.

Data: National Weather Service

Info graphic: Andrew Wilkins

During crisis (the wildfires in 2020) and amidst common problems (filling long-untended potholes) mutual aid groups and individual anarchists identify and solve problems.

“If you really want to make sure people are taken care of, you really have to go to the source, and be uncomfortable, and get outside your comfort zone,” said Rodriguez of United Mutual Aid Network.

“They want to burn, they want to bash, they want to intimidate, they want to assault,” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler says of anarchists. This seems overly simplistic, even manipulative, to discuss only property destruction and not the community’s mutual aid, defined an act of solidarity that builds networks between neighbors.

While anarchists can and do engage in direct action, they all engage in community strengthening.

“Being someone that’s been out in the streets protesting, and been arrested, it’s the same people… it’s very clear who cares about the community. If you think of the community as people outside the Portland Business Alliance and the wealthy,” pointed out one anonymous contrbutor who’s been busy with mutual aid during the heat wave.

Water and supplies distributed by mutual aid groups during the recent heat wave.

Photo: a self-described anonymous anarchist

Mutual aid is often done in silence, one or two people going out and accomplishing a goal. Most work in anarchy is strictly bottom up, leaderless. It can also be an incredibly complex network, with more facilitation.

As one anonymous source explained, working with a small group allowed more freedom, but working with a large organization gave them the opportunity to help more people in a more focused capacity.

More organized groups like United Mutual Aid Network dreams of a future where they can collaborate with other MA groups, and cover everything from medical needs, elder and mental health care, all while continuing their commitment to food security and first aid.

Homeless citizens in Portland are accustomed to the jail support station on 3rd Avenue & Main Street in downtown Portland. During the summer of 2020, the jail support was started to help protesters released the morning after an action.

It quickly grew to be a permanent fixture for all who were released, and a permanent encampment. The 3rd and Main location serves as a welcoming center, a supply drop, a safe haven, and a 24-hour resource center.

When wildfires displaced and threatened the health of Oregonians everywhere that same summer, anarchists and leftists established MALT (Mutual Aid Lloyd Theater) for 24-hour hot food, donations, and medical care. Anarchists and other leftists also organized to offer help during last year’s ice storms.

Anarchists were added to the domestic terrorist watchlist this year, hard to believe as an anonymous contributor says he handed out “hundreds of waters, Gatoraids, Powerades, all the Narcan I had, on top of Neosporin to all the cats up and down Powell and up and down 82nd.”

Another anonymous contributor reported feeling scared to do mutual aid as an anarchist, despite doing undeniably good work for the community.

Data: National Weather Service

Info graphic: Andrew Wilkins

The current infrastructure could not have handled any more heatwave patients than it already received. In Bend, Oregon, two homeless citizens were found dead, presumably from the heat. As did a farmworker in Willamette Valley. The homeless and agricultural workers are forgotten members of society, it’s sadly not surprising they were the first reported who perished.

As of June 30th, the current heat-related death toll in Oregon is 63. Of those deaths, 45 occurred in Multnomah County. An activist who identifies as We Can Recover explained, “It’s the failure of Ted Wheeler and putting humanity on the back burner. On no burner.”

All four of the contributors I interviewed felt united in their feelings of pride— and frustration with the government. Their commitment to mutual aid came from political beliefs, and they were immensely proud of the work they did. They also felt a tremendous amount of anger aimed at the government.

An anonymous source says, “I’m proud and happy and in awe of the community, and how we take care of each other in the face of the epic failure of our so-called elected representatives and institutions. It’s both inspiring and infuriating.” Another adds, “It felt like the City was doing nothing while we were essentially having to do everything.”

More water and supplies distributed by mutual aid groups during the recent heat wave.

Photo: a self-described anonymous anarchist

These are the unreported deeds of anarchists. One source did not show up to our interview in black bloc, smelling of a freshly burnt American flag (that’s strictly a nighttime aesthetic). This is the caricature that is most convenient to Ted Wheeler, when he appealed to the city to make anarchists “hurt a little”. In reality, we met at a cute coffee shop, where they were sporting denim cutoffs and a bright yellow t-shirt.

We had to go outside in the heat because they were afraid of being overheard, despite discussing good deeds. Even in the face of pressure from law enforcement, anarchists choose to help rather than hide, and use some humor to cope.

One of my sources even refers to him and his friends as “the terrorists”, despite risking their health, sacrificing scarce funds, and committing their time to the community when the government has missed the mark.


Melissa “Claudio” Lewis began her professional career in psychology. While building her career she encountered multiple ethical violations that lead her to be a whistleblower and witness, and more recently worked in the non profit sector with incarcerated adults as a mental health practitioner. Melissa felt drawn to independent journalism as she noticed similar ethical violations occurring during protests, and transitioned fully into journalism.