PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Protests erupted outside the Mark Hatfield Federal Courthouse Thursday night as fires were set, resulting in federal service officers using tear gas and chemical munitions to move the crowd back.
A group of about 50-60 people dressed in black were seen ripping down plywood, spray painting graffiti and setting fires. After a while, Federal Protective Officers pushed them back with tear gas and less-lethal munitions.
Over the course of about two hours, multiple skirmishes were seen as protesters set fires, officers put them out, then pushed the protesters back again. Tear gas was used outside the federal courthouse and protesters were arrested or detained.
The fence may have come down but boards went back up on the windows at the Mark Hatfield Federal Courthouse after someone smashed a pane of glass after a group dressed in black marched through Thursday afternoon.
At least one person was arrested during the afternoon demonstrations, PPB Sgt. Kevin Allen said. Police were called about trespassers in the lobby of the Wells Fargo Center on SW 5th Avenue just before 1:30 p.m. When officers arrived, they found about 30 people who refused to leave, including some who were smoking inside the building and some who had pets with them, police said.
People in the group then damaged a TV and the front doors to the building, according to police.
Officers later arrested one person on the steps of the Federal Courthouse on SW 3rd Avenue. Police said 22-year-old Darby M. Howard resisted arrest and punched an officer in the face. Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt said Friday Howard is charged with first-degree criminal mischief, resisting arrest and attempting to assault a public safety officer. The DA’s office said a witness identified Howard as the suspect who punched a TV and kicked an automatic sliding door inside the Wells Fargo Center.
Earlier, dozens of people marched through the streets of downtown Portland in a rally apparently in support of indigenous people.
Many people held signs, including a large one that read: “Protect the land, end America.”
With an online post indicating a “Direct Action” protest is planned for the Pearl District on Friday, the Pearl District Neighborhood Association hosted a meeting with representatives from PPB and Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office.
Robert King, the mayor’s senior public safety adviser, said the group spearheading recent protests is made up of “self-described anarchists.”
“Coming in to the weekend, we of course, as the chief has indicated, have staffed up,” King told KOIN 6 News. “We are aware of the event that’s been advertised for (Friday).”
King also said the mayor’s office is aware of a number of other events coming in the next few weeks.
“The mayor will meet this week with the Acting US Attorney to talk more about this group and potential assistance from the US Attorney’s office and other federal entities to hold individuals involved in this conduct accountable,” King said.
During the last “direct action” event in the Pearl District, residents yelled at vandals and marchers to “go home.” At the meeting, neighbors asked if it would help to hold a counterprotest on Friday.
“Protest is fine, that’s not what we’re talking about,” PPB Deputy Chief Chris Davis said. “With this group, this is a small group that is bent on destroying things. And what they want is a conflict. My advice is — don’t give them a conflict.”
Davis said the best thing people can do rather than fighting with demonstrators is to provide information, video or photos regarding crimes that do happen.