Group leaves $500K in damages amid downtown Portland memorial

Protests

Social media posts indicate there was a vigil for activist Sean Kealiher who was killed in October 2019.

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Tuesday night saw the return of widespread vandalism in downtown Portland amid a memorial for a slain activist.

A group of about 100 people gathered near Chapman Square at about 9 p.m. Some people used fencing from the park to block SW 3rd Avenue and others set off illegal fireworks and tagged buildings, police said.

Social media posts indicate there was a vigil for activist Sean Kealiher who was killed in October 2019.

The group started marching around 10 p.m., shattering windows and bank ATMs, and lighting dumpsters and garbage cans on fire in the street, according to the Portland Police Bureau.

Officers across the city responded to the area. PPB said all but the highest priority life safety 911 calls were put on hold as police worked to disperse the group using a loudspeaker and a team known as a mobile field force.

The crowd eventually broke apart and people went in various directions. Some laid down in front of police vehicles and others changed their clothes while leaving to try to mislead law enforcement, police said. The crowd has mostly left the area by about 11 p.m.

Police said the group targeted 35 different locations, including banks, retail stores, coffee shops and government buildings, causing damages costing at least $500,000. Officer reportedly recovered two unexploded illegal fireworks.

Locally-owned Elephants Delicatessen was among the buildings damaged Tuesday night. Anne Weaver and her husband have owned the metro area’s seven Elephants Deli locations for a couple of decades. Their location at SW 1st and Salmon opened shortly before the start of the 2020 riots and pandemic and had never been vandalized before now.

“We always try to be the business for the force of good,” Weaver said, adding that they’ve stayed afloat with the help of federal pandemic funds. “We’re a B Corp and we strongly believe in equity and social justice… We provide meals to shelters and homeless and partner with all kinds of organizations all the time, even through COVID.”

Weaver said one of their managers at the World Trade Center location told them Wednesday morning that five huge windows had been broken.

“Just immense sadness, you know, here we were thinking we had maybe turned the corner of this really, really arduous hard time we’ve all endured coming on two years now,” she said.

Weaver said they plan to close early starting next week. Despite the damage, she said she’s still very optimistic about Portland’s ability to recover.

“I’m still optimistic that we’re going to get this thing figured out and that they’ll be some healing and growth and beautiful Portland again, I believe it in my soul,” she said. “The cup’s always half full with Elephants — we’re always eternally optimistic.”

At the nearby Moda Tower, the enormous glass front doors were reduced to a pile of shards. A witness said the group used a hammer to break them. The windows of a dentist’s office across the street met similar fates.

The vandals spray-painted violent messages like “kill cops” and “anarchy means attack.”

“Please stop. If you’re doing that in order to liberate people of color, I can tell you as a person of color that violence and vandalism does not make me freer, it doesn’t make my kids freer,” said Commissioner Mingus Mapps. “In fact, it makes Portland more dangerous.”

Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office said a statement would be forthcoming.

“I’m concerned about the brazen criminal acts that took place downtown last night,” said Chief Chuck Lovell. “I want to assure those who were victimized that investigations are underway, and we will do whatever we can to identify and arrest those who were responsible. We ask that anyone with information please reach out to us. Thank you to all the officers who responded to a challenging situation.”

Investigations are underway and no arrests have been made at this time. Tips can be emailed to crimetips@portlandoregon.gov attention “Central NRT.”

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