A growing divide among Portland demonstrators against police violence resurfaced Wednesday as the nightly protests marked their 70th day.
Confrontations between police and protesters have shifted from downtown — the historic heart of the demonstrations — to police buildings across the city, where a faction of protesters now gather every night.
Downtown protests have not drawn a large-scale police response since July 29, the final day federal officers commanded security of the federal courthouse. Federal police repeatedly released tear gas and munitions on crowds for weeks before they handed off oversight to state troopers.
Calls for calm gained momentum downtown at the same time state police took over. Protesters plan to show Black-made films Wednesday after nightfall for the crowds gathered.
Many protesters have shifted from downtown to police buildings elsewhere. In recent nights, demonstrators have converged in front of a second eastside precinct and the police union building, where protesters and Portland police clashed Tuesday.
Demonstrators collected Wednesday night outside Portland Police East Precinct on Southeast 106th Avenue, more than six miles from downtown. The precinct is in a residential area, surrounded by apartments.
The crowd had grown to 100 people shortly after 9 p.m., when the group marched the short distance from Floyd Light Park to the police precinct. Some people pointed green laser-like lights toward the security cameras on the building. The crowd chanted, “No good cops in a racist system!”
Within 15 minutes of the crowd’s arrival, Portland police used a loudspeaker just after 9:30 p.m. to tell “peaceful” people to leave because of criminal activity.
An Oregonian/OregonLive journalist saw someone spray paint a security camera, and graffiti also was painted on a glass door of the building. Police had covered most of the windows with plywood.
People did not leave after police issued the warning. The size of the crowd slowly increased, to around 200 people.
Most people chanted, while a few people started taking down more plywood from the building, exposing glass windows and a door. Some people pushed dumpsters in the street to form barricades.
Police called the gathering unlawful at 9:45 p.m., and told people to immediately move north. A line of people wearing yellow t-shirts formed a line and linked arms at the south end of the street, ahead of officers’ approach. The yellow t-shirts are a uniform of protesters who identify as mothers. They repeated, “Black lives matter!” as the scene remained tense.
Near the entrance of the building, someone used a metal tool to repeatedly hit the glass window.
Around 9:55 p.m., police declared the gathering a riot. Police warned that if people did not leave, they would be subject to arrest or dispersal by impact munitions or tear gas.
Officers arrived 10 minutes later and forced the crowd to move. Just as that happened, a fire broke out in a trash can next to the precinct, where protesters had peeled off plywood.
Officers in riot gear set off stun grenades as they advanced toward people and pressed them north past the fire and precinct. Police detained at least four people.
After police pressed most people away, charred traces of the fire remained near the entrance of the building. An officer approached an Oregonian/OregonLive journalist in the area and said he had to move because police believed there might be an explosive device placed in front of the building. Portland police repeated the belief minutes later on Twitter. Police have not disclosed any more details or explained what led them to believe an explosive device had been placed there.
Dozens of officers and protesters formed dual lines near 108th Avenue and Washington Street, and faced off for several minutes.
Some of the officers were state troopers, identified by patches on the back of their uniforms.
At 10:20 p.m., police advanced again on protesters, forcing them to move east. At some points, they ran toward the crowd. Some officers picked up debris, such as homemade shields, left behind in the frenzy and placed them in a police van.
Police began to retreat just before 10:30 p.m.
Most people remained in the area. One altercation occurred between a resident who lived nearby and several protesters, after the woman walked out of her apartment wearing a swastika. Both sides shouted at each other.
Neighbors were mixed in their reaction to the crowd. At least other two bystanders got into shouting matches with protesters after screaming “all lives matter” at the crowd. One man who claimed to live in the neighborhood walked toward police, held out his arms and shouted, “I live here. You need to leave!”
The main group of protesters started making its way back to the precinct around 10:45 p.m. A line of officers approached the crowd and ordered people again to leave. Police pressed toward the crowd as one officer repeated orders on a loudspeaker, telling people to get out of the street and leave the area. A group of state troopers followed the front line of officers.
Police formed a line at 113th Avenue, then retreated around 11 p.m.
Many protesters remained in the area. Police and state troopers again moved in on the crowd near 108th Avenue and Washington Street just before 11:20 p.m. Officers forced people east to 113th Avenue, where they formed two lines for the second time. Police then forced people to move south on 113th, a residential street.
Officers often advanced toward the crowd by running. But unlike the first time they moved in on protesters, police did not set off sound or smoke devices to break up the crowd.
Portland police also declared Tuesday’s demonstration outside the police union building a riot after some people broke into the building and caused damage inside.
Within 15 minutes, officers shot impact munitions toward the crowd to try and clear the area, including around 12:15 a.m.
Several officers in riot gear climbed on a truck outfitted with running boards to transport rows of officers all at once. The officers set off smoke devices as the vehicle retreated. One person picked up a smoke device and threw it back toward officers.
Immediately after, Oregonian/OregonLive photojournalist Dave Killen was hit in the left hip by a rubber bullet shot by an officer. Smoke still filled the air when the green-tipped, 40 millimeter munition struck Killen.
“It’s appalling that our photojournalist was struck by a rubber bullet that appears to be indiscriminately fired,” said Therese Bottomly, editor of The Oregonian/OregonLive. “It’s incidents like this that led us to join with the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press in an ongoing court battle to ensure safety for journalists covering protests.”
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon has ordered police not to use force against journalists who remain at the scene of a demonstration to document what happens after police declare the assembly to be unlawful.
Tuesday night’s gathering escalated to several tense moments. A driver in a pickup truck raced through the crowd on North Lombard Street. The driver kept going even after the truck struck a motorcycle, pushing it on the concrete street as sparks flew.
The driver was interviewed and released without charges, according to police, who did not respond to questions about the circumstances of the incident and why the driver was released.
Police said they separately responded to two reports of shots fired in the area.
Three people were arrested and jailed in connection with the hours-long demonstration, police said.
Beth Nakamura, Brooke Herbert, Dave Killen, Fedor Zarkhin and K. Rambo of The Oregonian/OregonLive contributed to this report.
–Eder Campuzano | 503-221-4344 | @edercampuzano | Eder on Facebook
— Jim Ryan; firstname.lastname@example.org; 503-221-8005; @Jimryan015
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