PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced that the city-wide curfew will be extended Monday evening as the United States Attorney for Oregon called for the governor to enact the National Guard.
On Sunday, as chants of “I can’t breathe” and “George Floyd” reverberated, thousands of protesters marched through the streets of downtown Portland for a third straight night following the death of the unarmed, handcuffed black man under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer.
Wheeler and other city leaders took the podium beginning shortly after 8 a.m. on Monday, as they discussed how the city responded and how it will continue to respond going forward. Highlights of the press conference included Wheeler announcing an extension of the Portland curfew and U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy Williams calling for the National Guard.
“People are grieving, people are angry, and people are hurt,” he said. “Those emotions are now boiling over into the streets of America and right here in the streets of Portland. Last night for the third night in a row, thousands of protesters in our city demanded justice for people of color,” said Wheeler. “They deserve a space to deliver this important message and they deserve to be heard. Community leaders are listening, as your mayor, I am listening, your city commissioners are listening. Your police chief, fire chief, they’re listening too. They’re doing everything in their power to protect your right to protest to avoid confrontations.
“But last night, a small number of demonstrators provoked conflict. Last night, a small handful of rioters continued to hurt our city, they were violent, they harassed reporters and threatened our first responders. They smashed windows. They started fires,” he said. “I want to be clear — they were a small handful from amongst thousands of peaceful demonstrators — the majority. I want to say again: thank you. I’m proud to stand with you seeking a just future for the people of color that our government is failing.”
U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams called on the governor to enact the National Guard, saying “We need more numbers to do something to stop this ridiculous violence.”
Mayor Wheeler said he spoke to the governor multiple times throughout Sunday, asking for her to enact the guard. He said he believes the city does need more resources to address the protests.
“I want to assure folks that if the National Guard is deployed in Portland, they will be deployed for the purpose of securing and protecting our facilities and to free up law enforcement who is trained in crowd management to be deployed throughout the community,” said Wheeler. “We would not calling for the deployment of the National Guard throughout the community.”
After a bit of an explanation into his reasoning behind imposing curfews, Wheeler announced there will be a curfew in effect on Monday night.
“I am not stupid — I know that when you impose a curfew that does not in of itself cause anyone to make the decision to not participate in a protest or demonstration. I acknowledge that in some cases it might encourage it. So why do this? It sends a message to the broader community that it is not the time to come downtown.”
Wheeler touched on some of the emotional moment that unfolded on Sunday between some police and protesters.
“Officers kneeling alongside demonstrators to show respect and solidarity. Our Chief of Police, Chief Resch and Portland Police Bureau Leadership, meeting with the leaders of the demonstrations. working together to encourage a message of peace and nonviolence. As your mayor and as your police commissioner and as a father — and as the person responsible for the safety of everyone in this city, I do not believe that violence or destruction is the answer to healing the deep racial wounds, harming Portland and America.
“I implore you to take your justifiable anger and frustration and channel it into the hard work ahead. Lay bare the difficult truths we must hear. and own. Work alongside the phenomenal leaders in Portland’s black community — whom I had the great honor of joining yesterday to talk about our mutual path forward.
“Justice starts with us, because we all have a role to play,” he said. “As long as these demonstrations continue, I will stand in front of you every morning. I hope that I can always tell you ‘this morning, Portland is safe,'” said Wheeler. “But we cannot stop at limiting property damage or preventing injuries or deaths during protests. while that type of safety is important is not enough. to achieve true safety, we must make this city safe for every person who lives, works or visits here. We must reach a day where I can stand before you and say Portland is safe and have that ring true for a black community.
“Yesterday as I had the privilege of standing with my friends and colleagues, black leaders who shared their hopes, their wisdom, their pain, their believes and a path forward for America — as their friend and as the mayor of a hurting city, I promised to continue creating spaces for black voices to be centered and elevated and we’re going to do exactly that. Our team is working as I speak on this and whether it takes the form of town halls or community gatherings or something else, we are going to creating that space until we have lasting institutional reform and changing systems across all government. More to come soon on that point.”
PPB Deputy Chief Chris Davis was in attendance as well, speaking about what authorities saw throughout Sunday.
“Yesterday we saw people at their very worst — and we saw people at their very best,” said Davis.
For 45 minutes crowds mingled and it was tense but peaceful. A driver tried to drive through the crowd but was turned away by protesters who slashed his tires and smashed his window. Minutes later the mood seemed to change.
Protesters broke windows at the Federal Courthouse. Authorities said fires were set inside and police will now use “riot control agents.” The demonstrators were not able to get inside the courthouse.
Protesters threw projectiles, chanted “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” and heard the police say that anyone who throws projectiles is subject to arrest. Deputy Chief Davis said that it was a “very large number of projectiles” and went on for several hours.
However, he said he is happy to report there were no major injuries.
“I know emotions are running high and I want to thank everyone who demonstrated peacefully last night which was the vast majority of he crowd that came downtown.” he said. “I can assure you that we hear you and the community at large hears you.
“We acknowledge the pain and uncertainty of life that were living in right now during the pandemic and now recent events. We acknowledge the pain in our communities of color — that we have to recognize that our profession through its history has a role in. We remain committed to the change we need to make and as the police bureau, we remain committed to serving all Portlanders. Help us protect our shared community for more violence and destruction and help us move our community in a positive direction.”
Multnomah County Sheriff Michael Reese also spoke on his concerns over what transpired on Sunday, focusing on events both outside and inside the Justice Center.
“The destruction in our community must stop,” said Reese. “I am committed to fighting racism and bigotry in our community and will continue fighting for the underserved and the silent, to reduce crime and build a community that we all want and we all strive for.”
“Last night’s events were tumultuous,” he said. “It was incredibly violent last night in front of the Justice Center at times, and I cannot highlight enough the good work done by Chief Resch and the leadership of the Portland Police Bureau.”
He finished by asking the public to assist in identifying those wanted for the fire at the Justice Center.
Sunday was the third consecutive night of these protests, each of which began peaceful but then erupted into riots as the night went on. Portland Police Chief Jami Resch spoke around 2 a.m. Monday morning, during which she said the majority of protesters were peaceful, mentioning the marchers who came from the Laurelhurst Park area specifically.
“Unfortunately, there were others who were intent on violence and destruction directed towards police and targeted buildings including the Federal Courthouse, the Pioneer Courthouse Square, the Justice Center, and the Multnomah County Courthouse,” said Resch.