Night 57: Fire met with tear gas outside US Courthouse
It was a familiar scene that played out Friday night in downtown Portland as federal agents tear-gassed hundreds of protesters after some people lobbed fireworks and tried to tear down the fence outside of the federal courthouse building.
The 57th consecutive night of demonstrations in the city started on July 24 with several peaceful rallies and marches hosted by various groups, including the Wall of Moms, lawyers and teachers. Those groups later merged with hundreds of people in the park blocks and streets outside of the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse and Justice Center, leading to a crowd at least 2,000 people strong.
Peaceful demonstrations devolved, as they do most nights, into clashes between federal officers and a small number of people intent on launching fireworks, starting small fires and trying to tear down the fence erected by federal authorities. Mortar-style fireworks were launched shortly after 11 p.m., soliciting a swift volley of tear gas from federal agents. Dense tendrils of gas snaked through the streets, extending blocks out in every direction.
Friday's events come amid tensions between federal law enforcement and demonstrators, some of whom deployed firework, lit fires, and attempted to dismantle a fence outside the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse the previous night. Federal police deployed tear gas and other crowd-control munitions in response.
The presence of federal police in Portland and their tactics have come under fire from dignitaries like Gov. Kate Brown and Mayor Ted Wheeler, the latter of whom endured some tear gas himself when he attended a protest Wednesday night.
Here's a timeline of events from Friday, July 24:
A back and forth between protesters launching fireworks and federal law enforcement retaliating with tear gas and crowd control munitions commenced late into the night. At least one fire was lit inside the federal courthouse fence.
After tear gas was first deployed by federal law enforcement, a protester was seen throwing a Molotov cocktail onto the federal courthouse. Subsequent rounds of tear gas was deployed.
Federal agents deployed tear gas as some protesters started to shake the fence and launch fireworks at the federal courthouse building.
Demetria Hester, a woman injured by Jeremy Christian a night before he murdered two people on a MAX train in 2017, told KOIN 6 News, "I'm not gonna let my grandkids and my son grow up in this foul kind of world, I'm not gonna do it, we're gonna make change and change is now. We're not gonna give up, we're gonna stay tight, we're gonna keep uniting and more people are gonna keep coming out and we're gonna do this, we're gonna get this done."
At least 2,000 people have descended upon the area near the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse and Justice Center on SW 3rd Avenue in downtown Portland. Many have been chanting Black Lives Matter slogans while others continue to give speeches.
The massive crowd has swelled in number thanks to several various groups who gathered elsewhere in the city for rallies before marching to the Justice Center. Among them are the Wall of Moms, teachers and lawyers.
About 1,000 people have gathered to demonstrate in front of the Multnomah County Justice Center and listen to some people give speeches on the steps in front of the building.
Earlier on Friday
According to the website PDX Black Lives Matter Events a group called Asian Bloc was scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. at Tom McCall Waterfront Park and then marching to Justice Center. Their intention was to listen to Black activists and take their lead, according to the event description.
A Frontline Drumline led by Black/Indigenous/people of color was also slated to meet up at the park on the waterfront, with the meet up to occur at 7:30 p.m. It will include drumming, dancing and likely taking to the streets around sunset, according to its event description.
A Healthcare Workers Protest Group also met at Salmon Street Springs and marched to the Justice Center at around 8:45 p.m. The event description said they are individual healthcare workers and not an official organization.
Also at Salmon Street Springs was a Teachers Against Tyrants meetup at 8:45 p.m. The event description said participants were encouraged to wear green and full personal protective equipment. The protest was to show solidarity with Black Lives Matter, the Wall of Moms group, fellow educators and to protests "this egregious constitutional overstep."
A Lawyers for Black Lives Matter event started at Pioneer Courthouse and traveled to the Justice Center at 9 p.m. Participants were asked to wear suits, the color purple, helmets and other protective gear. "A threat to the rule of law is a threat to us all. Stand up for Black Lives and against the Federal Occupation trying to squash the message of BLM," read the event description.
KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune. You can find their story with video here.
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