PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — 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 later, 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.
Meanwhile, police sporadically rushed pockets of protesters, pushing them out into the surrounding neighborhoods. The crowd marched through the area for a while but, with their group formation splintered, they struggled to refocus their efforts. Officers left the crowd near Sandy and Oak at about midnight.
The group marched back to Colonel Sumners Park and left the area just before 12:30 a.m.
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.
Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury shared the following statement with KOIN 6:
“Tonight, the Multnomah County Building, the headquarters for the largest safety net provider in Oregon, was vandalized and set on fire by a small group of protestors. This is the heart of our County, where people in our community come to get married, get their passports, and celebrate their cultural traditions and diversity. A small group set fire to the Office of Community Involvement, a space dedicated to engaging community members who have been marginalized by the traditional political process. The lobby where the first same-sex marriage in Oregon took place, and where millions of pieces of personal protective equipment are being distributed to help our community battle COVID-19, was damaged.
“I acknowledge that there is grave injustice in our world and there is a violent and tragic history of oppression in our County. I am committed to transformational change. And I ask the community to work with us: support the critical work we do every day leading the public health response to COVID-19, providing thousands of meals to families in need, answering mental health crisis calls and serving those experiencing domestic violence. In such a difficult, uncertain time, our community needs all of us to work together.”
“The unprovoked actions by those who engaged in criminal behavior is reprehensible,” Sheriff Mike Reese said. “It is simply violence and serves no legitimate purpose. It does nothing to solve the issues our community faces.”
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.”
Earlier in the day
Posts online called for people to gather at Colonel Summers Park on SE Belmont Street earlier in the night. A march started shortly after 9 p.m. to the Multnomah Building on SE Hawthorne Boulevard and Grand with people chanting “No cops. No prisons. Total abolition.”
An online flyer also encouraged people to go to Laurelhurst Park earlier in the evening for “shieldwall and frontline practice.” Shields have grown in popularity at the demonstrations as a way to try to stop police when they rush people and to deflect crowd control munitions.
Monday night’s events outside the Portland Police Association building in North Portland ended with no arrests and only one confrontation between police and crowd members, which happened after police said some people from the group broke a window and tried to flood the building using a hose.