50 Nights Of Anti-Racist Protests And Police Violence In Portland

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Above photo: Militarized police in Oregon, without apparent provocation, though there were approximately 200 to 300 protesters demonstrating, police scattered gas and crowd control munitions throughout Downtown Portland. July 16, 2020. Beth Nakamura/Staff Oregon Live.

Police Use Tear Gas In Violent Response.

In Portland, on July 16, protesters held their 50th straight night of demonstrations against police violence and racism. Oregon Live reportsFederal officers responded to one late-night demonstration downtown by using gas, smoke and impact munitions to press protesters away from two federal buildings.”

Oregon Governor Kate Brown and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler called on federal officers to leave Portland, but they remain and continue to use aggressive and violent tactics. Brown called the deployment of federal officers “political theater” and a “blatant abuse of power by the federal government.”

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf traveled to Portland to meet with federal law enforcement officials. Wolf issued a statement condemning the actions of some protesters during the seven weeks of demonstrations and said local and state elected leaders are failing to address the protests. Within hours of his arrival, police violence escalated.

Oregon Live reports, “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?'” Police claimed they feared the building would be burned down and ordered the crowd to disperse at 10 pm. People remained chanting, “Quit your job.” In response to the order to disperse, the crowd grew to 300 with protesters holding lids lined with tin foil to reflect light back to the police. 

Some people in the crowd also shined flashlights or lasers toward police. Support vans, one supplying snacks and one providing medical care, arrived.

A live stream showed police using tear gas and other weapons.

At the same time, a smaller number of protesters gathered outside the federal courthouse and county jail, which have been at the center of nightly protests. Demonstrators moved to establish an encampment in a park across the street from the federal courthouse. Federal law enforcement responded to these protests with impact weapons and tear gas.

The crowd began to grow and by 11:15 p.m., more than one dozen officers, wearing either blue or camouflage uniforms, were posted near the building entrance. Two dozen more officers soon streamed out of the building to join them. As 11:30 pm approached, officers began firing projectiles into the crowd and advancing toward the protesters.  Protesters pushed back and police set off devices that made loud noises and released gas, smoke, and flashes. By midnight, most federal officers wearing camouflage appeared to have retreated.

Oregon Live reports “at least 18 people were booked into jail Friday morning on accusations often associated with protests, including interfering with officers and disorderly conduct.” Included was  Andrew Jankowski, a freelance journalist, whose arrest was captured on video by another journalist, Nicholas Lee, despite police efforts to prevent him from filming with blinding light pointed at him. Jankowski was arrested despite telling the police he was wearing a press pass and despite a preliminary injunction extended to Oct. 30, barring police from arresting or threatening journalists or legal observers.

The deployment of unmarked federal police who appear to be operating independently of the local authorities is of great concern. If this is allowed to happen in Portland, it can happen anywhere and severely inhibit First Amendment rights to protest.