Aug 01, 2020
Oregon hopes for changes from ongoing Portland protests
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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Hundreds peacefully protested in downtown Portland Friday, two days after the announcement that the presence of U.S. agents there would be reduced — a deal that Oregon officials hope will continue to ease tensions as the city tries to move on from months of chaotic nightly protests.
The start of Friday night’s protest mimicked that of Thursday, which was the first time in weeks that demonstrations ended without any major confrontations, violence or arrests. The change in tone outside a federal courthouse that’s become ground zero in clashes between demonstrators and federal agents came after the U.S. government began drawing down its forces in the liberal city under a deal between Democratic Gov. Kate Brown and the Trump administration.
Unlike previous weeks, protesters were not centered mainly outside the courthouse, but scattered throughout downtown.
A group identified as “Firefighters for Black Lives Matter” gathered in a small park a couple miles west of the courthouse. Another group, “Unemployed Workers for Black Lives” began to march towards the federal building around 8 p.m. People stood next to a makeshift memorial, with the pictures and names of Black people killed by police, at the Waterfront Park. A parade of cars with Black Lives Matter signs taped to their windows slowed traffic in the city.
By 9 p.m. there were a few hundred people outside of the courthouse. Last weekend there had been thousands of protesters.
As agents from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Marshals Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement pulled back, troopers with the Oregon State Police took over. Since then, there have been no visible signs of any federal law enforcement presence outside the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse.
In a tweet, President Donald Trump Friday night reiterated that the Department of Homeland Security “is not leaving Portland until local police complete cleanup of Anarchists and Agitators!”
“Last night, the world was watching Portland. Here’s what they saw: Federal troops left downtown. Local officials protected free speech. And Oregonians spoke out for Black Lives Matter, racial justice, and police accountability,” Brown said in a tweet Friday.
Mayor Ted Wheeler also struck an optimistic tone but cautioned that there was much work to be done after more than 60 days of protests — and not just in cleaning up downtown Portland.
Leaders in Oregon are pushing for a raft of measures that would address systemic racism in everything from policing to housing. Those proposals could be fast-tracked for consideration in a special legislative session later this summer.
The governor also announced the creation of a Racial Justice Council to advise her on criminal justice reform and police accountability, health equity, economic opportunity, housing and homelessness, and environmental justice.
Portland’s City Council also voted this week to refer a ballot measure to voters in November that would create a police review board independent from any elected official or city department.
The scene outside the federal courthouse stood in sharp contrast to the violent clashes between protesters and the agents that Trump sent to Oregon’s largest city in early July. Protests have roiled Portland for more than two months following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
And while thousands have marched and rallied peacefully, Portland’s federal courthouse became a target for some protesters. Smaller numbers of demonstrators tried to tear down a fence erected to protect it, lit fires at the courthouse entryway and hurled fireworks, flares and bricks at the agents holed up inside. Most nights, the agents responded by firing tear gas.
Under the deal announced by the governor, the agents will withdraw in phases.
The U.S. government had arrested 94 people as of Wednesday, the most recent accounting. Since the protests began, Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell said local police made more than 400 arrests.
Cline contributed from Salem. Cline is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues.”
Associated Press writer Andrew Selsky contributed from Salem.
Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.
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Portland police chief says riots not helping cause of racial justice: ‘Enough is enough’
Portland, Ore., police Chief Chuck Lovell on Wednesday morning decried violent instigators who he said are marring the message of mostly peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters.
"Portlanders need to send a strong message that enough is enough," Lovell told reporters at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, according to KGW-TV in Portland. "This is not forwarding the goals that are going to lead to better outcomes for people of color. This movement is really powerful, but the violence has taken away from it. ... This is not what Portland is about. This is not what we need in our city."
The protests, which have sometimes turned into late-night riots focused on the Multnomah County Justice Center and the federal courthouse, have continued unabated for more than two months since the May 25 death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.
Lovell said there have been many large peaceful protests that required no police presence but the smaller offshoot actions -- setting fires, breaking windows and throwing objects at police -- are taking away from the larger message.
Late Wednesday, Portland police declared a riot and said they believe an explosive device had been left outside a precinct. People were ordered to disperse, and some streets were closed.
RIOTERS VANDALIZE, SET FIRE AT PORTLAND POLICE ASSOCIATION OFFICE: POLICE
“I’ve never seen a summer like this,” Lovell, who was named police chief in early June, said.
He added that shooting have also spiked since the defunding of the Gun Violence Reduction Team over accusations of racism.
There were 99 shootings in July, up from 35 in July 2019, police said, according to OregonLive.com.
Lovell told reporters he doesn’t believe the team was racist even though it arrested more Black suspects than anyone else. He said the majority of victims are Black – 66% last month.
“A lot of those stops end with handshakes and conversation,” he said. “And there's a real familiarity and people miss it. We hear from a lot of people in the community saying hey we need the Gun Violence Reduction Team back. We need these officers that know our community, that know this issue of gun violence that we really relied on to help stay safe."
He added that taking police off patrol to cover protests has left fewer officers to respond to emergencies, according to KGW.
Downtown protests have become more peaceful since federal officers agreed to leave last week, so some instigators have moved to other police buildings across the city to cause problems.
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Early Wednesday, police had declared a riot and made three arrests after saying demonstrators set fires, erected barricades in a street and broke into the police union headquarters. Police said someone also fired a gun during the unrest and a pickup truck accelerated into the crowd while pushing an unoccupied motorcycle in front of it.
Lovell wrote a New York Times op-ed Monday titled, “I’m the Police Chief in Portland. Violence Isn’t the Answer.”
“As a Black man and a public servant, I see that spectacle is drowning out the voices that need to be heard to make positive change,” he wrote. "I agree with a local pastor, E.D. Mondainé, who stated these 'spectacles' are drowning out the voices that need to be heard to make positive change. This violence is doing nothing to further the Black Lives Matter movement."
Lovell also praised officers’ “professionalism” and said he has confidence in his community.