Night 49: Feds gas downtown Portland crowd, 'unlawful assembly'
Federal officers early Friday, July 17, deployed tear gas and riot control munitions in an attempt to disperse protesters near the Justice Center and federal courthouse building, as Portland police rushed demonstrators near the bureau's Southeast Precinct after declaring an "unlawful assembly" during the 49th night of unrest in the city.
Federal officers first fired rounds and deployed tear gas after protesters stood their ground outside the federal courthouse. A few hundred demonstrators had gathered in the area, but were told to disperse by police after they reportedly heard chanting about burning down the building. Some protesters remained in the area and were arrested, but it was unclear whether any arrests were made.
Thursday's events began in the evening with two separate marches: one organized by the PNW Youth Liberation Front and a "March for Black Education" organized by Black Youth Movement. The latter started at King Elementary School and ended at Woodlawn, while the former started at Laurelhurst Park and ended at the Portland Police Bureau's Southeast Precinct on East Burnside, where protesters stood and chanted slogans directed at officers in riot gear for hours until the gathering was declared an unlawful assembly and officers ordered people to disperse.
Across the Willamette River, several hundred protesters gathered outside of the Justice Center and the Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building. The federal building has been a main focus of contention in recent days. Federal officers have used tear gas multiple times against protesters since last week.
Police say several arrests were made near the Southeast Precinct overnight.
As the night progressed, federal officers in camouflage uniforms emerged and eventually engaged with protesters. Around 11:30 p.m., federal officers started firing riot control munitions and deploying tear gas in an effort to disperse people in the area.
A few hundred people remained in the area into the early hours of Friday morning. Many dragged sections of fencing erected Thursday morning by officials around Chapman and Lownsdale squares into the streets to use as barricades.
An escalation in protest activity in the city is due, in part, to the arrival of Chad Wolf, the acting secretary at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Wolf drove into downtown Portland Thursday afternoon, hours after issuing a statement condemning ongoing violence displayed at protests in the city.
Wolf accused local leaders of failing to protect the city, which he said has been "under siege for 47 straight days by a violent mob." Lawless anarchists, Wolf said, are destroying and desecrating property.
The following is a running timeline of events, taken from police reports and other accounts:
12:45 a.m.: Southeast Precinct
Protesters continued gathering near the precinct. Some objects had been thrown once or twice during the demonstrations earlier in the night, small things like bottles and a box of doughnuts scattered on the ground. But after police began rushing people, they threw larger objects toward police like shields.
Police rush on people at the scene, they kept it up for several blocks and drove their cars west down Burnside. Police knocked people to the ground as they rushed them. Other units lined up at multiple intersections along the way as they moved people west. As people ran away, they threw garbage cans and recycling boxes into the street.
11:45 p.m.: Southeast Precinct
Police in riot gear rushed the crowd of protesters outside the Police Bureau's Southeast Precinct. The demonstrators scattered and officers told people to disperse to the south and west. The event has been declared an unlawful assembly. A few minutes later, people again gathered outside the precinct and police rushed them a second time.
11:30 p.m.: Downtown Portland
Federal law enforcement officials started firing rounds of riot control munitions at demonstrators outside the federal courthouse, followed by gas. Protesters scattered, many saying they did nothing to warrant the officers' actions. Video from KOIN 6 News shows many protesters holding their hands up as they gathered on the sidewalk.
11 p.m.: Downtown Portland
Portland police warned people to not tamper with the fence at Southwest Fourth Avenue and Salmon. "If you do you will be subject to arrest."
10 p.m.: Downtown Portland
People started gathering near the Justice Center and federal courthouse building despite fences erected by authorities around the nearby park blocks. Some people arrived with shields. Others were seen wearing helmets.
People also were seen grilling food at the corner of Southwest Fourth and Salmon.
10 p.m.: Southeast Precinct
Portland police asked peaceful protesters to leave the area near the Southeast Precinct after officers "heard chants stating the crowd around Southeast Precinct wants to enter the property and burn down the precinct."
Portland Police warned those who threaten violence are "subject to arrest and use of force."
9:10 p.m.: Southeast Precinct
The Portland Police Bureau tweeted, "We have no intent to engage the crowd near SE 47th Avenue and SE Burnside Street. Please stay peaceful."
An estimated 300 protesters were gathered on the street.
8:45 p.m.: Southeast Precinct
Police and a few dozen protesters who marched from Laurelhurst Park met face-to-face outside of the PPB's Southeast Precinct/Multnomah County Sheriff's Office. The crowd chanted at officers dressed in riot gear.
Earlier in the day, a March for Black Education organized by Black Youth Movement started at King Elementary School and ended at Woodlawn. According to the website PDX Black Lives Matter Events, the march was to bring awareness to the lack of Black representation in Portland Public Schools and the treatment of Black/Indigenous/people of color students and faculty. It was to include speakers, demonstrators taking to the streets and snacks.
A Southeast Portland Rally Against Police Brutality also took place at Laurelhurst Park. According to a tweet from PNW Youth Liberation Front, the event began at the north side of Laurelhurst Park. The group then marched east on Burnside, ending at the PPB's East Precinct.
KOIN NEWS 6 is a news partner of the Portland Tribune. Readers can see their story with video here.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.