PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A quiet evening of demonstrations for racial justice and police reform in Portland ended with the razing of a George Washington statue on the eve of Juneteenth.
Thursday marked the 21st day of protests in Portland sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. Two groups — Rose City Justice and Lavender Caucus — hosted a sit-in rally at Jefferson High School in the evening where community members shared their experiences with racism to a crowd of a few hundred. The group did not hold a march.
A separate group of about 20 people met at NE Sandy Boulevard and NE 57th Avenue around 10 p.m. at the site of a large bronze statue of George Washington. Some wrapped the statue’s head in an American flag and lit the flag on fire. Their numbers grew over the next hour until there were enough people to pull the statue to the ground. They quickly scattered. A KOIN 6 News crew found the statue face down and covered in graffiti. Portland police arrived a short time later.
On the other side of the river, a small crowd of demonstrators stood outside of the Justice Center. They moved on after a short time and stopped near the Apple store in Southwest Portland but dispersed before midnight. Some said they wanted to rest ahead of Friday, which is Juneteenth.
Thursday’s events followed a peaceful march on Wednesday in which a large crowd marched through the streets of downtown Portland — eventually ending up in the Pearl District where they tried to set up a so-called “autonomous zone” outside Mayor Ted Wheeler’s residence.
Here’s a breakdown of Thursday, June 18, 2020:
Demonstrators protesting in Southwest Portland near the Apple store say they are winding down to rest before Friday, which is Juneteenth.
The group of people at NE Sandy and 57th has pulled down the George Washington statue and vandalized it with graffiti. Those responsible have left and police are now on the scene.
Protesters near the Justice Center have started walking north on SW 6th Street.
There are dozens of people now at NE Sandy and 57th. Some appear to be trying to set up a road barricade using newspaper stands and other items. The KOIN 6 crew at the scene hasn’t heard or seen any Black Lives Matter messaging, signs or chants.
A small crowd of protesters has gathered outside of the Justice Center in downtown Portland and are chanting slogans like “Black lives matter!” Some people have shaken the fence and sailed paper airplanes over the top into the police-only zone.
About 20 demonstrators have covered the head of a statue of George Washington in a flag and set fire to the flag at NE Sandy and 57th. There also appears to be some graffiti on the statute.
Members of the community are sharing their personal experiences with racism in the Portland area. Some are calling on those gathered to do more than post on social media when the topic is trending — but to also research and support the black community year-round.
A Grant High School student named Jasmine recounted a day when she walked into a coffee shop with a black friend and saw a police officer clutch their gun. She asked the crowd, “Why?”
Some Rose City Justice organizers have praised those who tried to camp out on Wednesday night outside Mayor Ted Wheeler’s apartment in the Pearl District.
Dozens of demonstrators are at the Jefferson High School football field for a rally hosted by Rose City Justice and Lavender Caucus. Organizers said they will open up the microphone for community members, particularly people of color, to speak about their experiences in a forum. It’s unclear at this time whether a march will take place tonight.
Rose City Justice said on Instagram they will be “highlighting some important matter: the lynchings that we have been seeing across the US lately and the precious life lost of Kendra James in 2003. Police brutality and white supremacy is unfortunately alive and well in this city of Portland, and it’s crucial we bring awareness to that and speak on it together.”