Video: Ore. protesters smash windows, set fire to police headquarters

Demonstrators in Portland also vandalized and stole from buildings and flouted the city's established curfew


Molly Harbanger
The Oregonian

PORTLAND, Ore. — After hours of largely peaceful demonstrations, violence escalated late Friday in downtown Portland, as hundreds of people gathered to protest the Minneapolis police killing of a black man.

The death of George Floyd has triggered a wave of national outrage that culminated in a chaotic night of vandalism and fires in downtown Portland. The mayor gave a stunned early-morning TV interview, during which he said no one was prepared for the level of violence that broke out.

Mayor Ted Wheeler declared a state of emergency shortly before 4 a.m. and implemented a nightly curfew that he said took effect immediately. The 8 p.m. curfew will last through Sunday morning, he said.

The situation erupted a little around 11 p.m. after people marched to downtown from an earlier demonstration in North Portland. Protesters congregated at the Multnomah County Justice Center, which houses the downtown jail and police precinct. People smashed windows and caused fires inside a first-floor office while corrections records staff were working inside, said Chris Liedle, a Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson. Workers were able to leave unharmed and the building’s sprinklers doused the flames, he said.

Portland Police labeled the gathering an “unlawful assembly" and started to move in toward the crowd. Before that, police had remained distant from protesters throughout the day.

Police officers in riot gear arrived around 11:15 p.m. Police used tear gas, pepper balls and stun grenades to attempt to break up the protest.

“If you do not go home now, force will be used to disperse you,” police said on Twitter.

But protesters spread out, and the chaos continued through downtown.

Some people spray painted buildings and smashed windows at a nearby Apple and Microsoft store. One man threw his skateboard into a nearby Starbucks window, shattering the glass. Around 11:30 p.m., people broke the glass doors of the closed Pioneer Place mall and went inside. Several people left with items from stores.

Mannequin parts lay strewn across Yamhill Street near the mall outside of the H&M store.

Nearby, several people emptied a dumpster and set pallets and cardboard on fire, blocking the intersection of Southwest Fourth Avenue and Alder Street. A police officer could be heard on a loudspeaker declaring the event an unlawful assembly and warning the crowd to leave the area or risk officers using force against them.

Police surrounded the flames and waited for firefighters, who extinguished the fire before a second one erupted at the same place minutes later. Around downtown, some cars were set aflame.

Around 11:50 p.m., police declared the situation a riot and said they were closing down most Portland streets to traffic, telling people to leave immediately or “be subject to force.”

Yet police largely did not attempt to stop people from breaking into businesses, instead using tear gas or stun grenades to break up growing crowds. Several officers in riot gear guarded the Justice Center, where the protest first escalated nearly two hours earlier.

Blocks away, people continued to break into businesses. A crowd returned to the Apple Store, where someone took a desktop computer and used it to break the front doors of a different section of Pioneer Place mall. After entering the mall, people stole bags and other gear from Tory Burch, a high-end retailer.

Across Southwest Fifth Avenue, some people used fireworks to light a small fire at a Chase bank, then moved across the street to a Wells Fargo bank after police arrived.

A crowd of nearly 300 people remained near Pioneer Courthouse Square around 1:10 a.m. Some moved a few blocks toward Target, where people had broken into the store. People also smashed in the windows of a Kassab Jewelers.

An hour later, hundreds of people remained scattered throughout downtown. Police near Southwest Fourth Avenue and Morrison Street fired rubber bullets and set off stun grenades.

Portland police announced around 2:15 a.m. that two people had been arrested during the evening. The agency didn’t immediately release any more information about the people taken into custody or the specific circumstances that led to their arrests.

As the violence devolved, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler tweeted a plea to protesters to remain peaceful.

“Portland, this is not us,” he wrote. “When you destroy our city, you are destroying our community. When you act in violence against each other, you are hurting all of us. How does this honor the legacy of George Floyd?”

About an hour later, Wheeler tweeted that he was leaving his dying mother to return to the city due to the carnage.

“I am with family to prepare for her final moments,” the mayor wrote. “This is hard, this is personal, but so is watching my city get destroyed.”

During an interview with KGW around 12:30 a.m. Saturday, Wheeler demanded protesters go home and called their actions a “dismantling of our beloved community.”

“What’s going on right now is flat out breaking the law, violating our community, violating the memory of George Floyd and so many other people on such an important night,” Wheeler said. “I have had enough. The community has had enough, and I’m telling those individuals go home.”

Wheeler said he planned to hold a news conference Saturday and visit some of the businesses along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard that were damaged earlier in the night as protesters marched toward downtown. He said he believed some of the businesses vandalized during the night may have been African-American owned.

Wheeler praised Portland police officers for “showing great restraint” throughout the day and said no one anticipated the scale of the actions from protesters.

“Nobody has seen this kind of brazen abuse of what was supposed to be a night of memory for somebody who was killed by a police force, and now it’s turned into something completely different.”

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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