EUGENE, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Several downtown Eugene businesses were damaged or destroyed by rioters and looters late Friday and early Saturday before police used tear gas to disperse the crowd, officers said.
Police said in a Facebook post a protest that began at the Lane County Courthouse building around 8 p.m. "was initially peaceful," but began to move and grew in size to about 200, which "morphed into acts of vandalism, illegal burning, damage to buildings, businesses and city property."
The actions included spray-painting of LTD buses, fireworks thrown into the county jail building, bottles thrown, traffic blocked and fireworks thrown at parked vehicles.
A "very large bonfire with flames 20 feet into the air" was set in a Starbucks/Jimmy Johns parking lot, they reported.
"To prioritize life before property, Eugene police avoided escalating the situation by moving in, instead monitoring for safety," the Facebook post stated.
However, around 12:30 a.m., "the situation reached a stage that required police move in to stop the situation from becoming more dangerous."
But businesses at Seventh and Washington, including Five Guys, Jimmy Johns, T-Mobile and Starbucks were destroyed, with windows broken out and looters entering Starbucks, officers said.
“What is happening tonight is not a legitimate, free speech event,” said Eugene Police Chief Chris Skinner. “It is illegal, irresponsible, is destroying local business and city property. It threatens the reputation of other peaceful and lawful events that don’t damage our city and put our residents and guests in harm’s way.”
Eugene police early Saturday deployed SWAT as looting reports spread to several other businesses. Police deployed tear gas to push the crowds out, and crowds largely dispersed before 4 a.m., with police staying on scene and monitoring the area.