PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In 2020, Americans were touched in large and small ways by civil upheaval sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. The public demonstrations that followed swung between peaceful — but insistent — demands for change to all-out riots that sometimes turned deadly.
Portland became one of the biggest protest stages in the country. The city captured the attention of people around the world as demonstrations repeatedly drew thousands of participants and marches choked off major freeways. People of all ages, colors, ethnicities and beliefs united under the banner of ending police brutality and seeking racial justice.
But the peaceful demonstrations of the daylight hours often devolved into violent turmoil once night fell. Vandalism and looting drew the attention of the nation’s top leaders, leading to the deployment of federal law enforcement officers. Clouds of tear gas suffocated the streets of Portland for nights on end. Downtown buildings wore sheets of plywood like armor as agitated groups stalked through neighborhoods.
Portland, Oregon — once one of the most desirable cities in the country — was often unrecognizable.
The protests of 2020 have left an indelible mark on the soul of America. They have challenged deep-seated beliefs, shined a glaring light on injustice, ignited heated discussions across social media and they have set a fire for change in the hearts of strangers, friends, family members, artists, students and politicians.
One thing is certain: America is looking in the mirror and examining its reflection with new eyes.
Here are the top 10 most-read stories about the protests on KOIN.com during 2020:
#1: George Washington falls in Portland (June 18, 2020)
By mid-June, protests sparked by the death of George Floyd had entered into a third week in Portland. Many who were joining rallies and marches did so while respecting the law. Others… didn’t.
Late on June 18 — the eve of Juneteenth — a small group met at NE Sandy Boulevard and NE 57th Avenue at the site of a large bronze statue of George Washington. Some wrapped the statue’s head in an American flag and lit it on fire. More people joined the group until there were enough people to successfully topple the statue. A KOIN 6 News crew found the statue of the country’s first president covered in graffiti. It wasn’t the first public statue in the city to be defaced — and it wouldn’t be the last.
#2: Deputized troopers skirt DA policy (September 1, 2020)
Oregon State Police troopers were federally deputized by U.S. Marshals in late summer. State police said they were working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to review arrests made by troopers assigned to Portland for potential prosecution.
But the decision, which was made in response to the growing unrest in Portland, meant a deputized OSP trooper could arrest someone for a federal crime and turn the case over to a federal prosecutor instead of a state prosecutor. Doing so would essentially override Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Shmidt’s policy of limited prosecution for certain charges related to the ongoing protests.
The story spoke to the larger undertone of confusion as federal and local authorities jostled for control over how to respond to the protests.
#3: Federal officers beat a veteran (July 19, 2020)
In mid-July, a video of Navy veteran Chris David being beaten by federal officers took social media by storm. Shot by Portland Tribune reporter Zane Sparling, the video showed David — wearing shorts, a baseball cap and a backpack — being struck repeatedly by officers in riot gear outside the federal courthouse building in downtown Portland as tear gas wafts through the air.
David needed surgery to repair his hand and needed months off from work to recover. He told KOIN 6 News in October his “sense of activism has significantly changed. The things I want to be, to advocate for: police reform, criminal justice reform.”
#4: Opposing groups gather… at arm’s length (Sept 26, 2020)
As the summer drew to a close, tensions began to rekindle in the lead-up to the presidential election. A rally held by the far-right group Proud Boys drew scores of supporters, Donald Trump flags and militarized body armor.
Simultaneous rallies supporting the Black Lives Matter movement were held relatively nearby but remained separated by a large police presence. Authorities said they arrested four people over the course of the day.
#5: Man gunned down during Trump rally (August 29, 2020)
Aaron “Jay” Danielson, 39, was shot and killed near clashes between supporters of President Donald Trump and counterprotesters in late August during a “Trump 2020 Cruise Rally.”
KOIN 6 News crews witnessed two people yelling and having an altercation near SW 3rd and Alder. Someone sprayed mace and then someone pulled out a gun. The crews heard shots fired, then a wounded man, later identified as Danielson, was seen on the ground and the suspect took off running.
A federal task force tracked the suspected shooter — 48-year-old Michael Reinoehl — to Lacey, Washington. Reinoehl was killed as the task force attempted to arrest him.
#6: One of the most destructive nights (October 11, 2020)
Protesters overturned statues of former Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln in Downtown Portland on Oct. 11, with organizers calling the event “Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage.”
The event that quickly unraveled from demonstration to destructive protest to riot was deemed by the Portland Police Bureau as one of the most damaging nights of demonstrations in five months of nightly unrest.
#7: Businesses move out as protests drag on (August 24, 2020)
After 87 straight nights of protests on the streets of Portland, the co-president of the Downtown Development Group penned a letter to Mayor Ted Wheeler and the members of the Portland City Council. In it, he listed company after company departing the central district of Portland.
Greg Goodman said the companies included Daimler Chrysler, AirB&B, Banana Republic, Microsoft (who he said is permanently closing their retail store), Saucebox and Google. Their departure, he said in the letter, has nothing to do with the Black Lives Matter movement “but does have most everything to do with the lawlessness you are endorsing downtown.”
#8: ‘Portland is losing its soul’ (July 24, 2020)
Scott Asphaug, the First Assistant US Attorney for Oregon, stood outside the Hatfield Federal Courthouse in July after police had declared an unlawful assembly the previous night. Inside the fence surrounding the courthouse were bags of feces, commercial-grade fireworks, CS cans used by officers, debris from garbage fires, bricks, glass bottles and fluid cans for Molotov cocktails. The courthouse itself was covered in graffiti.
“This building is supposed to represent justice and it’s drowning out the voices that should matter, which are the voices of social and racial justice taking place in Portland, and instead we’re talking about riots,” Asphaug said. “So the people who are doing the rioting are drowning out the voices that really need to be heard and that’s just heartbreaking.”
Billy Williams, the US Attorney for Oregon, said leadership was needed to put an end to this ongoing violence.
“Look around. Do you think it’s OK? Is there any justification on this? I hope not. Portland is losing its soul right now,” he said.
#9: Prominent Proud Boy arrested (September 30, 2020)
Well-known right-wing protester and Proud Boys member Alan Swinney was arrested by Portland police on Sept. 30 after an indictment was issued on September 11. According to the district attorney’s office, the indictment alleges Swinney fired a paintball gun at another person at a protest on August 15. That paintball shot caused physical harm to the individual. He is also accused of unlawfully using mace or a similar substance against another person and attempting to assault others on the same day.
The 50-year-old later pleaded not guilty to 12 total charges, including multiple for assault, unlawful use of a weapon, pointing a firearm at another person and unlawful use of mace.
#10: Portland leaders beg for peace (July 19, 2020)
On July 19, hours after rioters broke into the building that houses the Portland Police Association offices and set a fire, a passel of community leaders and activists begged for an end to the violence that had gripped the city for nearly two months.
“Our community has had enough. Our business owners have had enough. Officers have had enough and Portland has had enough,” said PPA President Daryl Turner at a press conference. “This is no longer about George Floyd. This is no longer about racial equity about racial justice. This is no longer about reform or the evolution of policing. This is about violence, rioting, destruction, chaos, anarchy.”