Portland demonstrators reacted Thursday to a wave of national attention from President Donald Trump and his administration by once again amassing throughout the city to decry police violence against Black Americans.
Federal officers responded to one late-night demonstrations downtown by using gas, smoke and impact munitions to press protesters away from two federal buildings. The confrontation between federal officers and protesters came hours after interim Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf arrived in Portland to meet with federal law enforcement officials.
Wolf had issued a statement condemning the actions of some protesters during the seven weeks of demonstrations in Portland and referring to them as “lawless anarchists.” Wolf said local and state elected leaders are failing to address the protests, which have continued for 50 straight nights since late May.
Two large crowds gathered Thursday night, east and west of the Willamette River.
About 200 protesters marched to an East Burnside precinct where police and sheriff’s deputies work, the latest of many protests during the day. Officers blockaded entrances to the building, and several officers in riot gear stood posted outside. People chanted, “Who do you protect? Who do you serve?”
Around 10 p.m., police announced that they had heard some people chanting that they wanted to burn the building down and told “peaceful” protesters to leave. “You are subject to arrest and use of force including crowd control munitions if you enter the property,” police said over a loudspeaker.
A crowd of about 250 people remained and chanted, “Quit your job,” as a songs by Beyoncé and Ice Cube played. Ice Cube had tweeted earlier Thursday about the federal police presence in Portland, labeling it the “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” in response to an article about federal arrests by Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Protesters brought plastic lids lined with tin foil and held them up to shield themselves and reflect light back toward officers gathered at the building. Some people in the crowd also shined flashlights or lasers toward police.
A boisterous but nonviolent crowd continued to confront police past 11 p.m. The crowd had grown to 300 people and a pair of support vans, one supplying snacks and one providing medical care.
The east-side protest had diverted some police attention from downtown, where a sparse number of protesters had gathered as of 9 p.m. outside the federal courthouse and county jail. The two buildings have been at the center of nightly protests, and federal officers in recent weeks have used impact weapons and tear gas on protesters outside the courthouse.
The crowd downtown eventually started growing late Thursday, including outside a federal office building next to the jail. By 11:15 p.m., more than one dozen officers, wearing either blue or camouflage uniforms, were posted near the entrance the building on Southwest Third Avenue and Madison Street. Two dozen more officers soon streamed out of the building to join them.
Several dozen protesters stood on the sidewalk and street near officers. Officers shot some type of less-than-lethal projectiles to break up the crowd around 11:25 p.m. It was not clear what precipitated officers’ actions.
Officers then pressed toward the crowd, shooting impact munitions and setting off devices that emit gas and smoke to force people to keep walking north on Third Avenue past the jail and then past the courthouse. Other officers in camouflage assembled on nearby Madison Street. As they pressed the crowd away from the buildings, the officers in camouflage walked beyond federal property and on to city streets.
Officers eventually formed a line on Third Avenue at Salmon Street, near the north end of the courthouse. Crowds of people gathered nearby on the other side of Salmon. Protesters pressed toward officers, and officers again set off devices that made loud noises and released gas, smoke and flashes.
Around midnight, most federal officers wearing camouflage appeared to have retreated, and their efforts to quell the protests seemed to have ceased. Smoke wafted through the air. Some people called for volunteer medics to help injured people.
The crowd reconvened near Salmon and Fourth Avenue, where a section of chain-link fencing near a recently-closed city park sat open. Several protesters started to dismantle more of the fencing, then move the fence to block off parts of the street.
By 12:30 a.m., some protesters had made their way back near the buildings that they had been forced to leave an hour earlier. Many people eventually gathered near a bonfire inside a stone planter on Main Street. Officers stayed mostly away, at least until 1 a.m. A thinned out crowd of several dozen people remained in the area.
Across town, officers outside the Portland police and Multnomah County Sheriff’s precinct on Burnside had dispersed protesters away from that building, livestream videos showed.
Authorities declared an unlawful assembly at 11:45 p.m. because several people in the crowd were throwing items and pointing lasers at officers, Portland police said.
Video footage appeared to show officers detain several people shortly before midnight. People remained near the building, then police pressed them away again.
It’s not clear how many arrests were made throughout the night, by either Portland police or federal officers.
Among those arrested was Andrew Jankowski, a freelance journalist who was booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center early Friday. Jail records say Jankowski, who’s accused of disorderly conduct and interfering with an officer, was arrested by Portland police East Precinct personnel.
Jankowski, speaking to someone off camera, spells his last name aloud while being led to a police car. Jankowski is later asked if he’s a member of the press, and he responds affirmatively. Jankowski also said he has a press pass on his chest.
Lee’s video said the incident took place shortly before 1 a.m. Friday.
The arrest came hours after journalists and legal observers who report about the demonstrations learned that a preliminary injunction would be extended to Oct. 30, barring police from “arresting, threatening to arrest, or using physical force directed against” them for not leaving when an unlawful assembly is declared.
The specific impetus for Jankowski’s arrest wasn’t immediately clear.
Thursday’s demonstrations came as elected leaders, including Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler called on federal officers to leave Portland.
Both said they had no plans to meet with Wolf while he was in the city, and Wheeler said he would decline if asked.
Brown called the deployment of federal officers “blatant abuse of power by the federal government.”
“This political theater from President Trump has nothing to do with public safety,” she said. “The President is failing to lead this nation.”
Wolf’s comments — and the accompanying national attention — landed at a time when tensions were already high. Portland Police cleared two downtown city parks across the street from the federal courthouse and county jail early Thursday morning. The parks had become a gathering spot for nightly protests.
Mark Ross, a spokesperson for Portland Parks and Recreation, said the parks are temporarily shuttered under a section of city code pertaining to emergency park closures “to conduct necessary repairs and maintenance.”
Portland police said nine people were arrested during the sweep and booked into jail ranging from trespassing to interfering with police. In one arrest captured on video by a KATU reporter, an officer forcefully knocked a person off a bicycle, taking the person to the ground.
Many protesters regrouped later and to prepare for future demonstrations. About two dozen people brought cardboard, trash can lids and sheets of wood to Kenilworth Park in Southeast Portland Thursday afternoon to craft shields to protect protesters when police use force, such as impact munitions. In a scene resembling a picnic, people gathered in a shady tree-covered corner and chatted while duct-taping their handmade shields together.
Several demonstrations occurred Thursday evening, including a march organized by the Black Youth Movement from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Northeast Portland. Organizers said they wanted to call for more Black representation in schools.
Black Youth Movement is one of two groups that split off from Rose City Justice, an activist group that had led massive nightly marches for much of June. The other group is Fridays 4 Freedom.
Paige Pierce said that she decided to attend the march after hearing about the rally from social media and her friends.
“I just want to support my culture,” Pierce said.
Hillary Le and Rina Alazas, two others who were getting ready to march, said they also wanted to come support the Black Youth Movement.
“What we can do as community members is to show up, and for this group especially,” said Le, a research assistant at Oregon Health & Science University.
Alazas said that people need to be cautious and more critical of the media’s presentation of Black Lives Matter protests, which are sometimes portrayed as violent and damaging to society.
She said that people who want to support the movement need to do so in more ways than one.
“Show up with your body, show up with your money and show up with your voice,” Alazas said.
Beth Nakamura, Jim Ryan, Dave Killen, Alex Hardgrave, Noelle Crombie and Everton Bailey Jr. of The Oregonian/OregonLive contributed to this report.
— Piper McDaniel; firstname.lastname@example.org; @piperamcdaniel
— Ryan Nguyen; email@example.com; @ryanjjnguyen