"Who do you protect? Who do you serve?"
Portland streets filled up — first with protesters, then with sirens — as crowds gathered Sunday, May 31, downtown and on the east side of the Willamette River for a third night of protests on matters at the intersection of race and law enforcement. Their chants and shouts of "Who do you protect? Who do you serve?" were aimed at police surrounding the Multnomah County Justice Center and throughout downtown.
As night fell, an estimated 6,000 people massed in front of the Justice Center, raising their hands in the air, booing or crying out "peaceful protest!" when firecrackers or other disturbances occurred among the throng.
But the truce did not last. Police pushed demonstrators away from the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse after announcing that they were investigating an attempted break-in. The federal courthouse was coated in spray paint during the event.
Flashbang grenades and tear gas canisters were fired some time later — after police said officers were hit by projectiles and fireworks — causing protesters to flee in disorder throughout the central city.
Then began a familiar game of cat-and-mouse, with small bands of protesters scurrying as squad cars and riot police vans flashed up and down the streets and avenues, ordering crowds to disperse until at least 1 a.m. — well after Mayor Ted Wheeler's 8 p.m. curfew.
One man dressed all in black pried off a board from the front of Pioneer Place mall, while freshly broken glass could be observed at Portland Luggage, Foot Locker and the Sixth + Main office building.
The federal courthouse in Portland pic.twitter.com/gkopkzjt3G— Zane Sparling (@PDXzane) June 1, 2020
Early in the protest, officers dressed in riot gear outside the Justice Center took a knee in one viral moment. Later, when one officer was given a megaphone by protesters, he said, "We see how extremely important your message is to the distrust that has existed between the police and the community," KPTV reported.
The Portland Police Bureau amplified sound car later announced, "Please demonstrate your First Amendment rights, but do not destroy your city."
Police said 14 arrests were made during the protest.
'Reflecting community and understanding'
Early Sunday, a gathering announced by PNW Youth Liberation Front brought several thousand protesters to Portland's tony Laurelhurst Park neighborhood. No crowd control weapons were used as the crowd approached the joint police bureau and sheriff's office Penumbra Kelly Building, 4747 E. Burnside St., leading to a prolonged stand-off. The column of protesters eventually made an hour-long march on Burnside back to downtown.
During a 2 a.m. media briefing, Police Chief Jami Resch said that several sergeants took a knee outside the Justice Center in an "organic moment."
HUGE crowd in East Portland right now. Definitely more than are downtown. Burnside and 47th blocked to car traffic pic.twitter.com/7tt6tsNlWK— Zane Sparling (@PDXzane) June 1, 2020
"I'm very proud of this moment, as it reflects community and understanding," Resch said, adding that she met with community leaders inside the central precinct later that night. "We agreed that the majority of demonstrators and the police wanted a peaceful protest, and we are frustrated by those who are engaging in violence and destruction, because it is not helpful at all in changing our efforts."
Washington and Clackamas County sheriff's deputies took calls for service throughout the rest of the city during the protest. TriMet shut down bus and light-rail service downtown throughout the night, while Oregon's Department of Transportation shut freeway exits for most of Sunday.
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