Rioters inflict 'millions' in damage to downtown Portland
Portland is still picking up the pieces.
After a night of rioting that lasted until dawn, the city's downtown woke up to a hangover of broken glass, burnt-out cars, innumerable graffiti and busted storefronts, some boarded up, others left agape like a mouth full of punched-out teeth.
Business leaders say the estimated damage, while still unknown, will be in the millions of dollars. And just as Multnomah County tiptoed toward a planned June 12 reopening, city leaders implemented a state of emergency and mandatory 8 p.m. curfew — effective immediately.
In an emotional speech at City Hall, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said Saturday, May 30, he hadn't slept in more than 24 hours after a period of rushed travel. He had been out of town meeting with family to discuss end-of-life care for his 90-year-old mother, Leslie, who is in hospice in Portland.
"I cannot condone last night's violence. I cannot stand by and watch our city be destroyed," Wheeler said. "Nor will I stand silent as men like George Floyd are murdered by the very institutions that are supposed to protect and serve them, and our communities at large."
Floyd's death in Minneapolis on May 25 has sparked widespread protests across the nation, including the riot in Portland. A Minneapolis police officer has been fired and charged with his murder after a viral video showed the officer kneeling on Floyd's neck.
Wheeler and Deputy Police Chief Chris Davis toured several of the hardest hit sites, including the now barren Apple store as well as the Justice Center, where Davis said rioters reached the door leading to the county jail before they were repelled by a rapid response team.
Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese said he saw looks of "true fear" on the faces of unsworn corrections staff who fled the ground-floor records-keeping unit after protesters stormed inside. Reese said the damage would only impede operations for a short time.
For reasons not yet clear, Portland Police Bureau Chief Jami Resch has been on "mandatory, unpaid furlough," for the past three days, including the lead-up and aftermath to the nighttime riot. Her return date has not been specified.
Davis, for his part, called the tumult "one of the worst nights in Portland history," saying officers from the Port of Portland, Gresham Police Department and Washington County Sheriff's Office were called in to respond to citywide emergency calls as local police attempted to corral multiple groups of rioters who seemed to splinter and reform at will many times over the night.
Realizing that whatever I happened to see was just a sliver of what went down last night during the Portland riot pic.twitter.com/auk7hZCQro— Zane Sparling (@PDXzane) May 30, 2020
Davis said no authority figure had predicted the level of rioting that occurred, and noted that while more than 1,000 people had gathered at Peninsula Park around 6 p.m. Friday, police are unsure how many of them were involved in the rioting that followed.
"You don't prevent what happened last night by over-policing free speech," the deputy chief said. "A big question that we have is: To what extent was this coordinated, because it was a fairly organized appearing effort."
City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty said reporters at City Hall were too focused on police strategy rather than community healing, and said the media had broadcast images of black looters that didn't reflect the actual make-up of the crowds.
"I believe there was a small group of people who came out last night with a very strong intention of tearing stuff up," Hardesty said. "I want those people prosecuted, I want them found, I will help them go through the video if need be."
By mid-morning, it was clear that clean-up of downtown Portland will be a Herculean task. Jewelers, burger joints, numerous banks, coffee shops, the Scientology center, outdoor apparel retailers, pharmacies, dispensaries and liquor stores all suffered from vandalism or loss of merchandise.
"There's millions of dollars of damage that has been done to our downtown core, for no good reason," said Andrew Hoan, CEO of the Portland Business Alliance. "Our business community certainly cannot afford this kind of cost."
While the Rose City is no stranger to protests, with more than 300 occurring without incident each year, the scope of the mayhem on Friday night appeared to be unmatched — at least since the election of Donald Trump, or perhaps since the Occupy Portland movement in 2011.
Authorities have announced injuries to three police officers, at least two hit by projectiles, and as many as 13 arrests as late as 5 a.m. Saturday. At 6 a.m., many in the city awoke to an apocalyptic serenade of thunder and lighting.
It was all too appropriate.
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