After three nights of demonstrations in Portland, Mayor Ted Wheeler held a news conference Monday morning to address the city’s response, adding that he has asked Gov. Kate Brown to activate the National Guard in the city.
Portland police said early Monday that 12 adults had been arrested and two youths had been detained after Sunday night’s protest. The figure isn’t final, and no information about the people arrested was immediately available.
Wheeler lauded the mostly peaceful protesters who turned out Sunday, while decrying those who chose to engage in violence.
“They were a small handful from amongst thousands of peaceful demonstrators,” Wheeler said.
But Billy Williams, the U.S. District Attorney for the district of Oregon, said law enforcement agencies in the city needed outside assistance.
“We need help,” Williams said. “I am asking the governor of Oregon to activate the National Guard. We need action now. This can’t go on.”
Wheeler said he had asked Brown to deploy the guard Sunday, but she’d suggested other alternatives, including additional resources from the Oregon State Police. If troops were to be deployed in the city, Wheeler said, they would be focused on protecting property and buildings, like the Justice Center, so local police would be able to focus on crowd control.
Two main groups gathered Sunday in Portland: One in Laurelhurst Park and another near the downtown Justice Center.
Thousands of peaceful demonstrators marched from the Southeast Portland park to the Portland Police Bureau’s old Southeast Precinct on East Burnside Street, according to police. Part of that group eventually made its way downtown, where a large group had already gathered. Deputy Chief Chris Davis of the Portland Police Bureau said the group was allowed to continue marching, despite violating a city-wide curfew, because there was no sign of violence and because police wanted to “give protesters space.”
The tenor changed downtown after the two groups came together, Davis said, and an order to disperse was given after some in the crowd began throwing objects and fireworks at officers.
But Wheeler and Davis also noted some moments of unity between protesters and police, with officers at one point taking a knee in solidarity with demonstrators and Portland Police Chief Jami Resch meeting with rally leaders. Wheeler said the rally leaders told Resch that violence was not the intent of the vast majority of those who came out to protest.
Davis noted that the anger within the African American community is not misplaced.
“We acknowledge the pain in our communities of color, that our profession has had a role in,” he said. We remain committed to the change we need to make.
Demonstrations, some destructive or violent, have broken out across the country after the death of George Floyd, the Minneapolis man prosecutors say was murdered by a police officer. Video showed Floyd, handcuffed, crying for help as an officer knelt on his neck, pinning him to the pavement for at least eight minutes.
Floyd’s death and the subsequent protests have drawn new attention to long-simmering anguish over the deaths of black men and women at the hands of police officers.
Portland’s protests began Thursday with a peaceful march. On Friday, after hours of peaceful demonstration in various locations around the city, a riot broke out in downtown Portland. Several fires were set downtown, and the Multnomah County Justice Center was ransacked and set ablaze.
Wheeler set an 8 p.m. curfew Saturday, but it did not keep protesters from turning out for the second night of large-scale protests.
The curfew returned Sunday, and protesters did the same. Wheeler has extended the curfew to Monday night.
© 2020 The Oregonian
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.