Night 56: Protesters chant ‘Stay together, stay tight’ as feds use tear gas

2020 Protests

Mayor Ted Wheeler stood with protesters as they were tear gassed by federal agents Wednesday night

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Protesters stuck together as they chanted after federal troops used tear gas and flashbangs several times against demonstrators as some launched fireworks and started a few fires outside of the federal courthouse during an otherwise peaceful protest that had been attended by thousands.

Upwards of 2,000 people gathered in the area of the Multnomah County Justice Center and the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse on SW 3rd Avenue on Thursday, which was the 56th consecutive night of protests in the city. KOIN 6 News saw sporadic fireworks launched outside of the courthouse and a few fires lit just past the reinforced fence.

Police say some protesters brought tools and worked to disassemble the fence. Multiple times in the night, some protesters breached the fence and prompted federal officers to come out and disperse the crowd. Federal officers were hit with various projectiles as they used tear gas and other crowd control munitions against the crowd.

Federal officers reinforced a fence surrounding the federal building after Wednesday night saw countless objects thrown over it, including flaming objects that started fires inside the fenced area. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler was among those who were in the crowd on Wednesday night when the tear gas started after he held a listening session at which he was jeered and booed.

Rallies, a march and a bike-ride demonstration took place elsewhere in Portland earlier Thursday. The Portland National Association for the Advancement of Colored People held a rally on the steps of the Justice Center, while two other demonstrations took place on the east side of the city. The NAACP said its goal was to “re-center our efforts and consolidate our message” to keep the Black Lives Matter movement alive.

Federal law enforcement stands outside Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse near SW Salmon and 3rd Ave. after deploying tear gas to disperse protesters, July 24, 2020 (KOIN/Danny Peterson).

Here is a timeline of events from Thursday, July 23:

1:58 a.m.:

Portland police declared an unlawful assembly, announcing it over a loudspeaker. Aside from some protesters sticking around in the area, the crowd slowly dissipated over the next few hours.

Portland police say they were not present at the protests with the exception of the public announcements made. They did not use tear gas or conduct any arrests. It is unclear, however, how many arrests were made by federal officers.

1:53 a.m.:

Federal law enforcement agencies dispersed members of the media near SW Salmon and 3rd Ave. after tear gas was deployed at multiple city blocks surrounding the Hatfield Federal Courthouse. Evidence of pepper balls and other crowd control munitions, like multiple types of tear gas, smoke munition, and flash bangs were found near area streets. There appeared to be groups of protesters clashing with federal police at nearby city blocks.

1 a.m.:

Hundreds remained at the demonstration outside of the courthouse following the first round of tear gas just after 12:50 a.m. Some protesters continued to light fireworks and a few fires behind the fence surrounding the courthouse, and federal officers used tear gas and flashbangs around 1:15 a.m. The protesters continued to chant “Stay together, stay tight. We do this every night.”

12 am:

Federal troops launched tear gas just after 12:50 a.m. after more than an hour of sporadic fireworks lit by protesters toward the federal courthouse. A few small fires were also lit. Hundreds of people have stayed in the street and park blocks and speeches from the NAACP concluded shortly after midnight.

11 pm:

Speakers continued to address upwards of 2,000 people gathered on SW 3rd Avenue in downtown Portland. Federal agents re-erected the fence around the federal courthouse earlier in the day. So far, protesters have left it alone. Federal officers have not made an appearance at this time.

9:30 pm:

As many as 2,000 demonstrators have gathered in the street and park blocks across from the Justice Center and the federal courthouse. Upside-down American flags were being waved by some in the crowd. Members of the “Wall of Moms” were also present, wearing their recognizable yellow shirts and bike helmets.

Earlier Thursday evening:

A group marched from Irving Park to Alberta Park on Thursday evening as part of the “Marching for Housing Equity” event hosted by the PDX Black Youth Movement.

Another event called “Ride the Redline” also started at Irving Park. According to the website PDX Black Lives Matter Events, bike riders planned to make various stops at places within Portland’s Albina District, the historic location of Portland’s African American community in inner North / Northeast. 

Wednesday night

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.

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