Night 55: Portland mayor visits protest, feds use tear gas

2020 Protests

Demonstrations have resulted in clashes with federal officers and tear gas every night for more than a week

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The 55th consecutive night of protests in downtown Portland included tear gas, flash-bang grenades, fires, a riot declaration that went unenforced, and a visit from someone who has not been seen at the demonstrations for more than six weeks: Portland’s mayor.

Mayor Ted Wheeler pushed his way through a crush of people shortly after 9 p.m. and made his way to a small media staging area as hundreds of people chanted and screamed for his resignation. Wheeler answered questions from several protesters before moving on to the steps of the Justice Center to listen to speeches.

Before the night was over, Mayor Wheeler was hit with tear gas by federal officers.

Wheeler said it was the first time he’d been tear gassed and appeared slightly dazed and coughed as he put on a pair of goggles someone handed him and drank water. He didn’t leave his spot at the front, however, and continued to take gas.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler reacts after being exposed to tear gas fired by federal officers while attending a protest against police brutality and racial injustice in front of the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse on July 22, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

Just before 11 p.m., some people started climbing over the newly-erected fence surrounding the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse. Demonstrators tore down the fence Sunday, leading federal officers to deploy tear gas and other crowd-control munitions. The fence was absent for the next two nights.

Around the same time as some were scaling the fence, others lit fireworks and threw incendiary devices over the fence where they started fires that burned long into the night. Federal officers then started firing tear gas, flash-bang grenades and pepper balls in an attempt to disperse the crowd. Hundreds of people remained outside of the building by midnight, but decreased steadily into the early hours of Thursday morning.

Here is a running list of events from Wednesday night, July 22:

2:30 am: The crowd was significantly smaller. Portland Police had still not taken enforcement action following their riot declaration. They said no arrests were made by the PPB but it is unclear how many arrests were made by federal officers overnight.

12:31 am: The Portland Police Bureau declared a riot, citing the “violent conduct of the large group creating a grave risk of public alarm.” Aside from using the sound truck to make the announcement, though, PPB did not engage with the crowds. Federal agents, however, continued deploying tear gas and shooting people with pepper balls.

Police say Molotov Cocktails were thrown at the federal building, along with hundreds of projectiles during this time. Various fires continued to be set around the area and fire hydrants were vandalized and opened, wasting hundreds of gallons of water, according to PPB.

12 am:

Protesters continued to throw fireworks at the federal courthouse as a fire on the sidewalk burned on. Federal officers have made some sporadic appearances to deploy tear gas.

11:05 pm:

Fires have been started inside the fence surrounding the federal courthouse building. Some protesters have pried open a section of the fence. Others continued to light fireworks.

Portland police said flares and other incendiaries were thrown over the fence, leading to fires in the portico between the fence and the building.

Federal officers responded with tear gas, flash-bang grenades and pepper balls directed toward the crowd.

10:50 pm:

A protester climbed over the fence surrounding the federal courthouse building. Federal officers have started to address the crowd over a PA system. Fireworks have been set off near SW Salmon.

10:30 pm:

Mayor Wheeler moved to the steps of the Justice Center to listen as Black speakers give speeches to a large crowd. One speaker mentioned police reformation and the crowd immediately started booing and chanting “Abolish the police!”

Hundreds more have gathered in the parks along SW Madison Street.

9:15 pm:

Mayor Wheeler pushed through the crowd as hundreds chanted expletives at him and called for his resignation. He spoke briefly over the crush of chanting, screams of anger and others on bullhorns. He criticized the Trump administration’s suggestion that federal officers will be sent to many U.S. cities, not just Portland, saying the plan is “not an acceptable solution anywhere in America.”

Wheeler said that in response to the Black Lives Matter movement in Portland, the city has “passed historic reforms.”

“I know for many of you, it’s not enough,” he said. “But I will continue to work with my colleagues on City Council.”

“It’s come 40 years too late, it’s come 400 years too late.”

Wheeler said he’s “doing everything in my power to get [federal officers] to leave.” He said the state is “looking at every legal action” in an attempt to get them to leave.

When asked if he plans on turning over control of the Portland Police Bureau to Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesy, Wheeler said “not at this time.” He said he does not support the abolishing of the PPB.

9 pm:

Hundreds of protesters packed the area of SW 3rd and Madison near the Justice Center in anticipation of a “listening session” held by Mayor Ted Wheeler. The crowds has spilled into Chapman and Lownsdale squares.

Gresham counter-protesters outnumber people protesting BLM flag

Counter-protesters outnumbered people who were demonstrating against a Black Lives Matter flag outside Gresham City Hall Wednesday evening.

The Multnomah County Republican Party told KOIN 6 News it organized the rally in response to the Gresham City Council unanimously approving the flying of a Black Lives Matter flag that has three yellow stripes below the letters, the same design the “radical Marxist BLM” group sells on its website.

“We want that flag, we believe it, we believe it should be up here all year round. We believe that Black lives matter here in Gresham,” counter-protester Shemar Lenox said. “These people that are out here today seem to think saying ‘Black lives matter’ excludes white lives and every other life, when it doesn’t.”

A group protests against the BLM flag flying over Gresham City Hall on July 22, 2020 (KOIN)

Those protesting against the flag showed up with American flags and “Back the Blue” signs.

One demonstrator named Dave said he doesn’t understand how the American flag can “instill such a sense of rage” in people.

“It’s amazing the fact that nobody can have a conversation anymore,” he said as people yelled ‘Black lives matter’ behind him. “Somewhere along the lines we’ve lost the ability to disagree and still be okay with each other.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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