Riot declared at downtown Portland protest Wednesday night
After more than a week of peaceful downtown protests, Portland police declared a riot and used tear gas to disperse a crowd after fires were set near the U.S. Courthouse and items like fireworks and rocks were thrown at officers.
One officer's hand was severely hurt and several others suffered minor injuries in the Wednesday, Aug. 12 fights, police said. Multiple arrests were made, but details were not immediately available.
The most confrontational protests had been taking place in other parts of town since the Oregon State Police took over security at the courthouse from federal officers. Riots and unlawful assemblies were declared at the East Precinct, the North Precinct, the Portland Police Association building in North Portland, and outside the Penumbra Kelly building on East Burnside.
But ahead of Wednesday night's demonstrations, an online post urged people to meet at Chapman Square in downtown. The flier included a note that read, "No cops. No prisons. Total abolition! (That includes peace police)."
"Peace police" refers to protesters who try to tell other demonstrators how to behave, usually demanding they not destroy property or directly engage with law enforcement.
Conflict between peaceful protesters and other demonstrators became especially apparent during the final days of federal officers' presence outside the courthouse. Once group of protesters would usually gather for speeches at the adjacent Justice Center, and loudly chastise those who tampered with the fence or set off fireworks outside the courthouse one block away.
As many as 300 people had gathered in Chapman and Lownsdale Square parks by about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday. Police say members of the group began launching fireworks at the fence surrounding the courthouse by 10:30 p.m., while some individuals threw an "unknown foreign substance" at the front doors of the Portland Police Bureau Central Precinct.
Despite the fireworks, the gathering remained largely quiet until about 11 p.m. when a couple of small fires were lit near the federal courthouse. A fake pig head and Trump flag were set ablaze in the middle of Southwest Third Avenue. More fireworks and other objects were thrown over the fence surrounding the courthouse. Meanwhile, private vehicles blocked traffic from entering the protest area. Less than half an hour later, police warned the crowd over a speaker that criminal activity was occurring near the courthouse and needed to stop.
Portland police declared the gathering an unlawful assembly at 11:30 p.m., cautioning that those who failed to leave would be subject to the use of tear gas, crowd control agents or other impact weapons. They said it was a riot just minutes before midnight.
Despite the riot declaration, protesters began moving toward the Justice Center as some threw fireworks and eggs at officers.
Large numbers of Oregon State Police troopers, Multnomah County Sheriff's Office deputies and Portland police officers then took to the streets to disperse the crowds, making arrests and deploying tear gas as they moved. KOIN 6 News witnessed authorities pepper spray at least one person.
Police say around 12:45 a.m., about 100 people remained and were moving back to the Justice Center. Those protesters continued to throw items while officers dispersed the crowd once again. Some members of the group then moved near the Central Precinct, where one person was arrested after vandalizing a police car.
The vast majority of the demonstrators had dispersed by 2:30 a.m.
KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune. Their story with video can be found here.
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