Looting, fires in downtown Portland; police declare riot

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WARNING: Graphic video may include disturbing images, language

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Chaos reigned in downtown Portland late Friday night into the early morning hours of Saturday as a protest against police violence after a handcuffed black man was killed when a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee on his neck descended into a riot.

Vandalism, break-ins, looting and fires were witnessed by KOIN 6 News crews into the overnight hours as thousands roamed the streets, either partaking in the riot or watching it unfold around them. Multiple high-end retailers, including storefronts for Apple, Louis Vuitton and Tory Burch, were breached and looted. A Chase Bank branch was broken into and set on fire.

At least two protesters were arrested according to Portland police; no other details were immediately released.

As a peaceful vigil in North Portland turned into a march through Northeast neighborhoods Friday evening, protesters had been gathered outside of the Multnomah County Justice Center in downtown Portland.

After the groups merged sometime around 10:30 p.m., KOIN 6 News crews witnessed protesters smashing the windows of the Justice Center. “Flares and other incendiary devices” were thrown on the first level of the building as Corrections Records staff were still there, according to officials; staffers were able to escape to a secure location inside the building. The flames were put out by the building’s fire sprinkler system; however, extensive damaged remained.

In an interview with KOIN 6 News, City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty condemned the riot, saying the destruction of property has nothing to do with supporting black people.

“Destroying the city, and for what?” she said.

Demonstrators had been gathered to protest the death of George Floyd, a black man whose death in police custody had been caught on camera. The white officer who kneeled on his neck has been fired and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

Firefighters extinguish a fire set to a car in downtown Portland, May 29, 2020. (KOIN)

Portland police tweeted just after midnight that SW Naito Parkway west to SW 13th Avenue was closed from SW Lincoln north to NW Everett Street. Officers threatened those in that area with tear gas, projectiles and other non-lethal tactics, calling it “illegal assembly.”

By 1:30 a.m., crowds were significantly smaller than they had been hours before; however, KOIN 6 News witnessed the smaller crowds continue the destruction.

The vigil at Peninsula Park started around 6 p.m., which eventually turned into a march down Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Eventually, protesters crossed the Willamette River on the Burnside Bridge to meet with other protesters outside of the Justice Center.

Flames were seen inside the Justice Center building and smoke was pouring from the windows at about 11 p.m. Officers in tactical gear arrived a short time later. Protesters threw objects at officers. Portland police tweeted that firefighters responded to the scene.

By 11:15 p.m., officers started using flash bangs in an attempt to disperse crowds. A crowd broke into Pioneer Place and dozens left carrying merchandise from stores inside at about 11:30 p.m. Around the same time, protesters set a large fire in the street at 4th and Main.

Officers said one person was shot, treated and released prior to the protest. One person was arrested earlier in the afternoon.

The Portland Police Bureau said it was investigating three separate shootings on Friday night, including one tied to the protest. Police did not elaborate.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who was out of town when the protests began to be with his ailing mother, took to Twitter to condemn the riot.

At 1 a.m. on Saturday, protesters set fire inside a Chase bank at SW 6th Avenue and Yamhill.

Earlier in the evening at the vigil, several speakers called on others to stand against racism. At one point, the group observed a moment of silence to remember all those who have been killed.

“If all lives matter, we wouldn’t be in this boat right now,” one speaker said into the bullhorn.

“We stand with George’s family so they know they are not alone,” said another man. “We are tired of our young black men getting killed. If you are afraid, don’t put on the uniform.”

Dozens of people also attended Portland NAACP’s “Eulogy for Black America” Friday morning, which was held at Terry Schrunk Plaza.

Black and religious leaders shared feelings of hope and outrage over Floyd’s death. They said black Americans are tired of racism and the community needs to work together to be part of the solution.

“Black people are exhausted by racism. Black people have been fighting this,” Hardesty, who had attended this rally, said earlier Friday.

Hardesty accused the “majority community” of being chronically silent after other past killings of black people.

“It would be easy for us to say this is a police problem but I want to tell you it’s not a police problem,” she said. “Police is a weapon, a tool that continues to be used to sacrifice black lives. But that would be wrong. The reality is that white America has accepted the fact black and brown bodies are expendable. You’ve been silenced.”

Following the eulogy, a group of people laid on the ground outside of the Multnomah County Justice Center to symbolically call for an end to police violence. Many in the group had been demonstrating near the steps of the building since Thursday.

Overnight, Portland Police Bureau officers were in riot gear while some protesters blocked streets around the Justice Center at about 3 a.m. on Friday morning. Between 70-80 people were already gathered on the steps of the building on Thursday evening and, later, marched north up SW 3rd Avenue.

One person was arrested and charged with interfering with a police officer along with resisting arrest.

Friday events in photos

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