Portland leaders call violence a ‘distraction’ from movement

2020 Protests

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland community leaders spoke out on Friday after a night of violent protests that included looting of businesses and setting fire to a police precinct.

“The acts that took place here last night are not only reprehensible, but evil,” Portland Police Bureau Chief Chuck Lovell said during his remarks.

Mayor Wheeler also spoke, saying that that he will not tolerate the violence. “What happened here last night, with doors being nailed shut, barred shut, with fires being set to the outside with people inside, that is not transformation. What happened here is not helping bring about any meaningful change or reform. Last night was plainly and simply about arson, it was about destruction,” Wheeler said.

Various other community leaders also spoke out during the press conference, all in agreement that violence is not the way to create change. They called the violence a “distraction from the real movement.”

“It is never tolerable to use that kind of violence,” community leader Carolyn Leonard said. “Let this be the last day anyone does anything violent in the name of justice and peace. They don’t fit in the same sentence.”

“We are not going to let people come into our community and cause destruction,” Pastor Matt Hennessee from Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church said during his remarks. “We have worked hard to invest economically in this street over the last 30 years,” he said as he recalled it being renamed for Martin Luther King.

Four people were arrested overnight after protesters reportedly looted businesses and set one side of Portland Police Bureau’s North Precinct on fire after police declared an unlawful assembly. Police say they used CS gas, a type of tear gas, to disperse demonstrators, and that multiple officers were injured as a result of the demonstration; the injuries were described as non-life-threatening.

It’s unclear how many businesses suffered property damage at this time, but KOIN 6 News observed restoration crews at Top to Bottom, a clothing store on NE MLK, and vandalism at a nearby bank as well.

The area is home to many minority-owned businesses, including Black-owned businesses.

Brandon Dean, a Black Portland native, told KOIN 6 News he was tired of the vandalism as he helped clean up the area.

“People are going to do what they do. I can only control me,” he said. “If people want to keep coming out here destructing stuff? Me and my business are going to do whatever we can to pitch in.”

More demonstrations are expected in Portland Friday night, which will be the 29th night of protests since George Floyd was killed in late May. Floyd, a Black man, was killed after a white officer in Minneapolis kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes; his death and final words — “I can’t breathe” — were caught on camera.

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