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Portland police declare riot after fires set at police union building

Portland riot PPB 829
Portland Police Bureau
Damage at Portland Police Association building early Saturday

Sit-in held at Portland mayor's condo lobby

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Fires set outside a police union building that’s a frequent site for protests in Portland prompted police to declare a riot early Saturday and detain several demonstrators.

An accelerant was used to ignite a mattress and other debris that was laid against the door of the Portland Police Association building, police said in a statement. At least one dumpster had also been set on fire in the street nearby.

As officers approached to move demonstrators away from the building and extinguish the fire, objects including rocks were thrown at them, police said. Several officers suffered minor injuries, according to the statement.

The fire was put out and several people were arrested, police stated, though exact numbers weren’t immediately available. The building was damaged, and a bottle containing flammable fluid was found near the scene.

Witnesses also said a car drove by near the demonstration and someone inside fired several gunshots into the air. Video posted online showed shell casings in the street. No injuries were reported. Police did not mention any gunfire in the Saturday morning statement.

The commotion followed a sit-in in the lobby of the Portland mayor’s condo building Friday night. Protesters have issued demands, including police budget reductions and Mayor Ted Wheeler’s resignation, the Oregonian/OregonLive reported. A crowd of about 150 had gathered outside the building.

Portland has been gripped by nightly protests for three months since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The demonstrations, often violent, usually target police buildings and federal buildings. Some protesters have called for reductions in police budgets while the city’s mayor and some in the Black community have decried the violence, saying it’s counterproductive.

Portland Police Bureau news release:

Fire Set to Union Building, Riot Declared

Individuals within a protest gathering set an arson fire at the offices of the Portland Police Association (PPA) building Saturday morning, prompting a riot declaration.

On Friday, August 28, 2020 at about 11:45p.m., a march began from Peninsula Park in the street. Many in the gathering were wearing protective gear, including helmets, goggles or gas masks, all black clothing, and/or carrying shields. Marchers arrived at about 12:10a.m. to the PPA building, in the 1800 block of North Lombard Street. They blocked traffic both directions. Someone cut the power line to the building almost immediately.

The PPA office has been the site of numerous violent protests over the past few months, and protesters have lit the building on fire several times. It is located in a residential neighborhood and there is concern that any building fire could spread to occupied homes, especially during the current stretch of dry weather.

About 10 minutes later, individuals wheeled multiple dumpsters into the road and lit at least one on fire. The fire was in the road and not threatening any structures. In the interest of deescalating the situation, Portland Police Bureau (PPB) officers remained out of sight. However, arsonists put some debris, including a large mattress, against the front door of the building, appeared to spray accelerant on it, and lit it on fire. The flames appeared to engulf the front door area of the building and nearly reach the roofline. Due to the extreme life safety concerns, the Incident Commander declared the incident a riot. A warning was broadcast by loudspeaker that the incident was declared a riot and all persons were to disperse immediately to the north. Failure to comply with the order may subject them to citation or arrest to the use of tear gas, crowd control agents, and/or impact munitions.

Officers responded and moved the rioters away from the building so the fire could be extinguished. As officers approached, rioters threw objects at them, including rocks. Multiple officers suffered minor injuries after being struck by rocks. During the response, officers used crowd control munitions. However, no CS (tear) gas was deployed.

There was fire damage to the front of the PPA building (photos). Officers also recovered a bottle that contained flammable fluid (photo). An arson investigator responded and gathered evidence of the crime.

Officers made multiple arrests. Information about the arrests will be released at a later time.

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