PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and Sheriff Mike Reese addressed the media Wednesday hours after the damage and vandalism caused to the Multnomah County Building late Tuesday night after rioters threw rocks, broke windows and set fires.
The message from officials was clear: vandalism and violence directed at the Multnomah County Building does nothing but hurt the movement seeking to advance police reform.
“[The Multnomah County Building] is a place where people get married, come to get their passports, and come to celebrate their cultural traditions,” Kafoury said Wednesday. “I am incredibly relieved that nobody was in the building at the time.”
In an earlier statement, Kafoury said she knows “there is grave injustice in our world and there is a violent and tragic history of oppression in our County….In such a difficult, uncertain time, our community needs all of us to work together.”
Following Kafoury’s description of the damage, she noted that the building has served as a storage facility for much of the region’s personal protective equipment (PPE) used to combat COVID-19.
“If the fire had spread–or if that life-protecting equipment had been damaged by smoke and water–then health care workers, patients and seniors would have paid the price,” she said.
According to Kafoury, roughly $1.3 million in damage has occurred to Multnomah County facilities since the protesting began at the end of May.
What the Sheriff said
Sheriff Reese criticized those who have been committing criminal activity under the guise of “peaceful” protesting.
“A line is crossed when peaceful protests become violent,” he said. “The unprovoked actions for those engaged in criminal behavior last night is reprehensible. The damage and destruction, profane and hate-filled graffiti, and setting fire to public buildings is simply violence. It serves no legitimate purpose. It does nothing to solve the problems and issues that our community is facing.”
What the DA said
In a statement Wednesday morning, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt echoed what Kafoury and Reese said.
“The violent and intentional criminal behavior that occurred at the Multnomah Building is the antithesis to the work Multnomah County and its dedicated and diverse staff is doing daily to uplift, support and improve our community,” he said. “I continue to condemn this violence. As Sheriff Reese said, it has no legitimate purpose. This destructive and illegal behavior needs to stop.”
What PPB Chief said
PPB Chief Chuck Lovell also denounced the ongoing violence and urged the community to come together and do the same. He also noted “morale is low” as officers face “what appears to be endless destruction within the City they took an oath to serve and protect.”
Lovell said the solutions are ” in a critical mass of community and partners coming together to denounce this criminal activity,” plus “broad support for the police to do their job in exhausting and challenging circumstances” and for elected officials and leaders to support the real change necessary “but against those who continue to feel empowered to act in a way that devalues our City with every brick thrown, every fire lit, and every crime committed.”
“The stakes are high and the world is watching,” Chief Lovell said. “We are on the national stage right now. I would much rather be known for being leaders in change rather than nightly violence.”
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler chimed in on Tuesday night’s events via Twitter saying:
I continue to support and encourage demonstrations calling for racial justice and police reform. I condemn the criminal destruction that occurred last night at the Multnomah County Building.— Mayor Ted Wheeler (@tedwheeler) August 19, 2020
The work that we are all being called to do is to make this community safer. This type of destruction makes the community less safe.— Mayor Ted Wheeler (@tedwheeler) August 19, 2020
Riot began quickly, 2 arrests
Police declared a riot in Southeast Portland after at least 200 people marched to the Multnomah County Building, threw rocks through windows and started a fire inside the office for the 82nd night of protests in the city. After marching from Colonel Summers Park on SE Belmont Street to the county building on SE Hawthorne and Grand, the group started lighting dumpster fires and throwing rocks through the building’s windows.
By about 10:20 p.m., flames were running up curtains hanging near cubicles inside of the building after protesters threw lit newspapers through the broken windows.
Minutes after the flames were set, Portland police arrived at the scene and declared a riot. Officers pushed people out of the street and sprayed pepper spray in an effort to disperse the crowd. Police say no tear gas was used overnight.
The fire inside the Multnomah Building was extinguished minutes after it was started. Fire crews responded to the scene to also put out multiple dumpster fires.
Police say two arrests were made overnight. Jesse Hawk, 23, was arrested and charged with riot, interfering with a peace officer, resisting arrest, unlawful use of a weapon, assaulting a public safety officer, harassment, second-degree disorderly conduct and attempt escape. Peter Curtis, 40, was arrested and charged with first-degree attempted criminal mischief, and reckless endangering.