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Portland protest remains largely peaceful; city lifts curfew

Portland peaceful protest Pioneer Courthouse Square KGW 62
Large crowd of protesters gather Monday in Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The city of Portland will not impose a curfew on Tuesday night for the first time in four days after several thousand demonstrators remained largely peaceful during a march the night before to protest the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Mayor Ted Wheeler thanked protesters and organizers who kept an hours-long march and gathering peaceful and said he saw “a community ready for healing and reconciliation.”

The protest marked a turning point for Oregon’s largest city after demonstrations the previous three nights spun into violence. Crowds set fires, shattered windows and broke into police headquarters and a corrections center during demonstrations over the killing of Floyd, a handcuffed black man who pleaded for air as a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee against his neck.

“I know that if we truly want justice for George Floyd, we have a long way to go. I know that, but last night I saw a community that’s ready for both healing and reconciliation. I saw a progressive and mindful police bureau that deeply cares to to that work,” Wheeler said.

The evening was not without some violence, however.

After the protest disbanded late Monday, about 100 people confronted police officers guarding the downtown Justice Center and threw projectiles at them, Police Chief Jami Resch said.

Twelve people were arrested and two guns were seized from protesters, she said.

A visibly angry Wheeler lashed out at Gov. Kate Brown for what he called her “mischaracterization” of his initial request for National Guard members to assist police. He had requested the Guard in a supportive role, to protect critical buildings, and not for crowd control or to make arrests, he said. Brown had told reporters that Wheeler asked her to deploy the Guard on the streets.

“Mayor Wheeler asked me over the weekend to mobilize the National Guard and put them in direct confrontation with protesters,” Brown said during a Monday news conference.

Wheeler said he called the governor after her remarks Monday and expressed his alarm.

“On an issue as sensitive as this, we have to, as leaders, get the facts straight,“ the mayor said Tuesday. "And the idea that I would ask the (governor) for the National Guard for the purpose of direct confrontation with demonstrators, on the very same day that Trump said the military should be deployed into states to crush even peaceful demonstrations, is incendiary.”

Brown’s office did not immediately respond to an email or phone call seeking comment.

Earlier Monday, U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy J. Williams had asked Brown to deploy National Guard troops to the city to guard infrastructure such as federal courthouses and police offices.

“What I saw at the Justice Center …. was sickening. This has to stop and in order for that to happen in the city of Portland, we need help,” Williams said of the protests Sunday. “We need bodies, we need more numbers to do something to stop this ridiculous violence. This just cannot keep up.”

The violence came after thousands of protesters held a largely peaceful demonstration outside the Multnomah County Justice Center in downtown Portland. At one point, some police officers took a knee with protesters and three people in the crowd had a private talk with Police Chief Jami Resch, authorities said.

“We saw people at their very worst and we saw people at their very best,” said Deputy Police Chief Chris Davis, who thanked protesters who remained peaceful. “Our strategy last night was to make sure that whatever happened, the police bureau was not the cause and so we decided to give them a greater space and give them the time to express themselves.”

The Multnomah County GOP criticized the police response in a statement, saying the Portland Police Bureau and Wheeler were being too easy on protesters and should not have allowed them to violate the curfew order without consequences.

“After all of Portland’s experience with mass protests, can the police really be so incompetent as to fail to encircle these crowds and arrest them all? Of course not. This is a deliberate policy choice to promoting further disorder,” said Chairman James Buchal.

Elsewhere in Oregon, authorities said between 7,000 and 10,000 people gathered at the federal courthouse in Eugene on Sunday and marched to a local park in a peaceful demonstration. After the event ended, about 1,000 people continued to protest.

Some protesters surrounded a car after its driver sprayed something at them and another occupant fired a gun into the ground, angering the crowd, police said. Authorities intervened and no one was injured. In another incident, a man with semi-automatic weapon got out of a Jeep that was parked in the road but a protester was able to keep the crowd back until the man got back into the Jeep and left, said Eugene police spokesman John Hankemeier. The incident is under investigation.

In Salem, up to 400 people marched and got into a confrontation with police that resulted in six to eight arrests.

Other, generally peaceful protests took place across the state, including ones in Bend, Redmond and Prineville.

Article Topic Follows: Oregon-Northwest

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The Associated Press


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