The Tone Changes in Portland

Demonstrations are mostly peaceful, but police make two arrests
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 2, 2020 3:10 PM CDT
Portland Protests Turn Peaceful—Almost
A Department of Homeland Security officer stands watch as fellow officers extinguish a fire lit by protesters behind the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse on Sun, Aug. 2, 2020, in Portland, Ore.   (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Portland protests heated up again Saturday night after a relatively peaceful stint following the departure of federal officers earlier in the week, USA Today reports. In fact, Portland police declared an unlawful assembly in southeast Portland after some protesters allegedly aimed lasers at officers and tossed things at them. Two arrests were made. For more, including a struggle over a burning flag:

  • Hit in the head: Saturday's flashpoint was miles away from the federal courthouse where protesters had clashed with officers, News Channel 8 Portland reports. On the 4700 block of East Burnside Street, police say, people with "press" written on their clothing "repeatedly threw objects at officers," including a "glass bottle or can full of paint" that hit an officer in the head. The officer was apparently unhurt.

  • Overreaction? Some protesters called the arrests an overreaction by a police force with a long and troubled relationship with Portland's minority groups. "Some protesters make the argument that if we were all just peaceful, the police would stop messing with us," Kevin, 22, tells the Washington Post. "But some nights we are peaceful, and they still mess with us!"
  • Crowd dispersal: Tweeted videos show police violently rushing a crowd and, in riot gear, peacefully pushing back a crowd that was chanting "black lives matter." As that group backed up, people chanted, "Why are you in riot gear, I don't see no riot here?"
  • 'De-escalate': Yet protests outside the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse—where protesters had been hurling bombs and getting arrested and tear-gassed—remained peaceful again Saturday, the third night since federal officers disbanded. "The energy has definitely changed," Capt. Travis Gullberg of the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office tells Oregon Live. "We're very appreciative. We're all trying to de-escalate."
  • NAACP: With federal officers gone, protest leaders tried shifting crowds away from the courthouse and refocusing on the issues. The NAACP's Portland chapter held an event called "Re-centering Why We're Here," where Sen. Jeff Merkley talked about his proposal to limit federal officers by requiring them to identify themselves and not use unmarked vehicles when arresting civilians, per OregonLive.
  • Burning flag: But the shifting tone sparked conflict between protesters on Friday night about whether to keep using force, the Post reports. When some protesters set an American flag ablaze, a group of moms rushed to put out the flames. "You're on the same side!" shouted a nearby protester.
  • Wall of Moms: The Wall of Moms group that recently made headlines—and filed paperwork to become a nonprofit organization—has announced that co-founder and president Bev Barnum has been kicked out, the Portland Tribune reports. "I'm sorry for not being transparent," she wrote on her Facebook page. "I'm sorry for not including you in the decision-making process." Tensions in the group also led to the forming of another group called Moms United for Black Lives.
(More Portland stories.)

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