Officials urge peaceful Floyd protests, say police are ready
On the eve of the jury verdict finding former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty in the murder of George Floyd, current and former officials on Tuesday, April 20, urged Portlanders to keep protests peaceful.
The announcement came after nearly a year of protests of the killing of Floyd, sparked by video of Chauvin kneeling on his neck as the Black man died, pleading for breath.
Issued before the verdict was announced, officials' pleas at the online press conference were interspersed with warnings from law enforcement officials that police stood ready to arrest people committing crimes such as arson or vandalism.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said he hoped that Chauvin was found guilty. He also said he has declared a state of emergency, adding that the National Guard and Oregon State Police were ready to assist if needed.
Wheeler said that whatever the verdict would be, his concern was that a small group of "anarchists" would undermine the city by "breaking windows, ransacking businesses, arson, intimidation ... they use crime and violence to intimidate those who don't share their political views."
City Commissioner Mingus Mapps echoed Wheeler, urging protesters, before throwing bricks in a window, to ask people of color "will trashing this Starbucks make your life better?"
And he said he echoed a plea from fellow commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty: "Please stop setting buildings on fire."
Former Oregon State Senator Avel Gordly said the Chauvin case illustrated "the fatal flaw in our democracy and we are living with the deadly destructive consequences of a flawed system of justice."
But she urged people to avoid chaos and instead build community. "Let us remember our children are watching."
Another former state senator, Margaret Carter, also spoke, equating hurting employers to hurting low-income people. "I'm not ashamed to beg you as activists to please march in peace."
Acting U.S. Attorney Scott Asphaug and Portland Police Acting Chief Chris Davis both said their agencies stood ready.
"If you're involved in criminal activity," Davis said, "you can expect to be arrested, prosecuted and held accountable.
Wheeler, for his part, said he suspected some cases locally could be prosecuted in federal court, where sentences tend to be stiffer.
"They are not protesters, they are criminals," he said. "Public opinion is starting to shift against those individuals."
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