Bearded white guy wearing a navy suit with various pins of support for social movements

Alumni spotlight: Matt Schnider ’12

Matt Schnider ’12, currently the senior vice president of finance at NorthWestBank’s downtown Portland offices and cofounder of the record label Angry White Man, is royally pissed.

“I am royally pissed,” the former Lewis & Clark student told The Pioneer Log yesterday over a breakfast of açai bowls with granola at a Pearl District café. “I have looted eighteen stores, set six cars on fire and been thrown in jail 21 times over the summer. But even with everything I have been doing to help, there still has not been any change.”

Schnider considers himself a leader of Portland’s protests, although nobody but Schnider himself has referred to him that way. He took to the streets for over 100 straight days through the summer of 2020, ending his streak only recently when he took a vacation to Hawaii to escape the wildfire smoke.

“You and I, we constitute the proletariat,” Schnider explained, flagging down the waiter to put more sugar in his coffee. “We need to fight back against the capitalist ruling class, and that is exactly what I am doing. I work to destroy capitalism.”

I asked if he could define capitalism for me.

“Capitalism, well … Capitalism is bad. Nothing much more to say there.”

“Elaborate on that.”

“Uh … well, if I punched you right now, that would be very capitalist of me. If some idiot parked in front of the exit to my upscale condo so my Tesla was stuck in the parking garage, that would be an example of capitalism. Capitalism is, like, what villains do. Darth Vader, he is an example of a capitalist. Voldemort, too.”

I asked how he would describe his own political convictions. Is he a communist? An anarchist? A left-libertarian?

“Yeah, all of those sound good. I like breaking stuff.”

Schnider has been vigorously denounced by most other Portland protesters, who see his tactics as detrimental to their cause. One of his strongest critics is Lily Jones, a small-business owner and prominent member of Portland’s Black community.

“Matt looted my convenience store four times in a month!” Jones complained. “The store has been in my family for three generations, but I am not sure how I will stay in business if he keeps looting. I will have to move in with my sister in Texas, which is a shame, because I love Portland and I want to see change happen here. This is just not the way to do it.”

I told Schnider about Jones’ condemnation of him, and asked how he would react.

“She has some blinding privilege!” Schnider raged. “I mean, she owns a store? Obviously a member of the capitalist elite. What right does she have to tell us, the people, how to protest? Like, I know we have a right to free speech, but being real here, free speech does not extend to people who I consider racist. I mean, obviously.”

Recognizing that we all want change and an end to police brutality, in what ways does Schnider expect to bring about that change?

“Well, I am working with Black people in this,” Schnider responded. “By that, I mean that I am probably doing what Black people would want me to do, if I ever talked to one of them.” At this point, he grew misty-eyed and leaned back in his chair. “Man, that would be amazing, meeting a Black person. I wonder what I would say.” 

Schnider quickly got back on track. “But yeah, I am working to create change. You know, there are a lot of people who are on the fence about this whole movement, you know, potential supporters. I bet that if someone who is not convinced we are the good guys sees me setting things on fire, destroying buildings with innocent people inside, and throwing bricks at cops, they will think ‘Damn, I know which side I support now. We need to abolish the police.’” Schnider stood up, taking one last sip of coffee. “Now, if you would excuse me, I need to get to a shareholders’ meeting.”

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