Protesters with the group Don’t Shoot PDX and the Black Lives Matter movement demonstrated in Portland Friday.
They said they were drawing attention to the fatal police shootings of black men across the nation, most recently in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Protesters in North Carolina have taken to the streets for the third night in a row.
Around 100 protesters arrived at Portland City Hall Friday afternoon and demanded a meeting with Mayor Charlie Hales. They unfurled banners that read “Don’t Shoot PDX” and “Housing For All,” chanted, and pounded on the glass doors that lead to the mayor and commissioners’ offices.
Raville Johnson said he was in a business class at Portland State University when the protest passed by, and he and others ran out to join it. He said the protest grew as it moved through the city.
“A lot of people here are just pedestrians who believe black lives matter,” Johnson said. “They’re asking to talk to the mayor, to talk about the killings of non-harmful black Americans in the world.”
The protest was peaceful, but did include some modest acts of vandalism. Someone scrawled the words “F—- the police” across a railing in City Hall, elevator doors were jammed open, and a few people took drinks from Happy Cup Coffee Company, a cafe inside City Hall run by a non-profit that works with adults with disabilities.
Hales offered to meet with the group in the city council chambers, but the protesters initially refused the meeting.
Security officers arrived, and many City Hall staffers quietly left the building, but Hales stayed.
At 5:45 p.m., the mayor met behind closed doors with three men from the group. A few minutes later, they emerged and he walked down to address the crowd.
Hales, who has tried to make police reform a part of his legacy, declared to the crowd: “Black lives matter. I believe that,” he said. “We are heartsick and outraged at what’s happened around the country.”
He committed to personally investigate the protesters’ allegations that some among them had been mistreated by Portland Police during the group’s protest.
Hales also promised that he and Police Chief Mike Marshman would meet with the group for an hour on Tuesday at 4 p.m.
“The right to protest is a legitimate constitutional right, and I respect it. But it also is important that we remember how we protest. I’m sorry there was vandalism in this building today, because you own it, I just work here,” he said.
That prompted a quick response from Teressa Raiford, one of the group’s leaders.
“That ain’t got nothing to do with dead bodies in the ground,” she said.
When the mayor finished speaking, a woman in the crowd spoke up.
“Civil disobedience is what got us the right to vote, what got us a black president,” she said. “The bottom line is, our lives are not treated the same way as your life is.”
“I hear that,” Hales said.
The protest initially weaved through town. A couple of hundred protesters blocked traffic inner Portland.
Gregory McKelvey carried a bullhorn and led marchers down NE Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
“It wouldn’t make sense for us to stop protesting as long as these murders by the police are still going on and police brutality is still going on,” he said, “As long as people of color are afraid to go outside, because that’s when we’re most likely to be killed.”
Marchers in Portland moved quickly from one block to another, staging die-ins, walking through the Lloyd Center, and temporarily blocking traffic on the Burnside Bridge. Portland Police told protesters they’d be arrested if they marched against traffic downtown.