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Protesters And Police Clash Outside City Hall After Portland Police Union Contract Vote


Protesters gathered outside City Hall in response to the Portland City Council voting to approve a new four-year agreement with the police officer’s union.

Police arrested 10 people outside City Hall during a demonstration held in response to the Portland City Council voting 3–1 Wednesday to approve a new four-year agreement with the police officer’s union. The contract guarantees pay raises for officers and drops a number of union grievances filed against the city.

About an hour after the vote, the mayor ordered police officers to remove protesters from city hall.

Activists and journalists who remained inside were warned that anyone who remained would be arrested, and were then forcibly pushed to the exit doors by a line of police officers.

It is not clear what prompted the mayor’s order to clear the building. Activists had, a few minutes before, complied with a request to take down tents they had erected inside. In a press release, the police bureau said earlier in the day the city received emails threatening to shut down city hall and disrupt the transportation system.

The scene became chaotic as police officers pressed people toward the doors. Some people appeared to resist the order to leave the building, while others just appeared trapped in the crowd.

“I was trying to get out of the way fast because I’m disabled and an amputee at the hip,” said Sara Phillips, a member of the progressive legal advocacy group the National Lawyers Guild. 

“I was really scared of being trampled. A cop saw me, grabbed me, and picked me up and threw me down the stairs,” she said. Phillips says she was attending the protest as a neutral observer.

Several officers sprayed pepper spray in protesters’ faces in an effort to clear people from the area around the doors, and some people threw water bottles at officers.

One woman, reportedly Sara Long, was taken by officers from the scene to receive medical care, and medics treated a handful of people who were hit with pepper spray. The police bureau reported that one officer received non-serious injuries from a person in the crowd.

Portland police confirmed Wednesday night that the people arrested were:

  • Jonny Samuel Perez, 23, booked into the Multnomah County Jail on charges of assaulting a public safety officer, second-degree criminal trespass, second-degree disorderly conduct, and interfering with an emergency response.
  • Robert Lee West, 51, booked into the Multnomah County Jail on charges of coercion, second-degree criminal trespass and second-degree disorderly conduct.
  • Sarabeth Rachel Long, 38, booked into the Multnomah County Jail on charges of coercion, second-degree criminal trespass and second-degree disorderly conduct.
  • David Kif Davis, 44, criminally cited and released for second-degree disorderly conduct and interfering with a public safety officer.
  • Hallie D. Bernhoft, 20, criminally cited and released for second-degree disorderly conduct and second-degree criminal trespass.
  • Carlton Smith, 43, criminally cited and released for second-degree disorderly conduct.
  • Henrick De-Savy, 21, criminally cited and released for resisting arrest, second-degree disorderly conduct and interfering with a public safety officer.
  • James Mattox, 27, criminally cited and released for second-degree disorderly conduct and interfering with a public safety officer.
  • Frank A. Martinez Jr., 24, criminally cited and released for resisting arrest, second-degree disorderly and interfering with a public safety officer.
  • Benjamin J. Kerensa, 32, criminally cited and released for second-degree theft.

Leaders with the group Dont Shoot PDX suggested their next move will be suing the city over their exclusion from some of the hearings leading up to council’s vote to ratify the contract.

“I think we have a lot of evidence for a lot of claims, and possibly to void this contract,” said Gregory McKelvey. “My immediate concern is the injuries.”

After they were ejected from the building, the protesters repeatedly moved into the streets around City Hall to interrupt traffic, including the Max light rail orange line, at which point police would return to the area to remove them.

A large crowd gathered to watch. One man pleaded with the protesters to let a Trimet bus pass. Others filmed the scene with their cellphones.

“This is the best response we could have asked for,” said activist and one-time mayoral candidate Jesse Sponberg. “Now the whole world sees this, the whole world is watching.”

The protesters dispersed around 6 p.m. with a promise to reconvene Friday.

Commissioners Amanda Fritz and Nick Fish joined Mayor Charlie Hales in voting to ratify the police union agreement earlier in the day. Commissioner Steve Novick voted against it, citing fiscal concerns. Commissioner Dan Saltzman was absent from the meeting for the Yom Kippur holiday and did not respond to a request for comment.

Protesters with the group Don’t Shoot PDX had vowed to stop the vote. Many spent the night camped out in tents in front of City Hall.

They say the agreement doesn’t do enough to ensure that officers who use excessive force will be disciplined or fired, and they have called on the mayor, who has less than three months left in office, to let mayor-elect Ted Wheeler renegotiate the contract.

A wide range of police accountability groups, including the ACLU of Oregon, Portland Copwatch, the city’s elected auditor and the director of the Independent Police Review division of the auditor’s office have objected to the contract. They have raised concerns about the contract and a draft body camera policy that Hales and the police bureau released at the same time.

After protesters disrupted the council’s morning meeting Wednesday, Hales briefly adjourned the hearing and called in police officers to control the crowd.

Approximately 20 officers stationed themselves in the stairwell in City Hall, blocking protesters from the small room on the third floor where the council reconvened to take its vote.

For the second time in a week, the general public was excluded from the City Council’s meeting. Journalists and people who had signed up to testify on council agenda items were allowed to enter. Video of the meeting was streamed live online.

Dozens of protesters, some with megaphones, remained on the second floor, chanting “black lives matter.” At times, it was difficult to hear members of the council speaking over the noise of the protesters downstairs.

As she cast her votes, Fritz acknowledged at length the opposition to the contract.

“Many of the people who I respect most in the entire world have urged me not to vote for the contract,” she said. “Obviously, the easiest path today would be for me to vote no.”

She offered an apology for the city’s slow progress on racial equity issues and police reform and thanked many of the protesters who opposed the deal by name, including Don’t Shoot PDX leader Teressa Raiford.

“I am sorry for my part in failing to achieve more reforms. I apologize for not succeeding to improve community trust in the police bureau. I apologize to every Portlander who has experienced disparate treatment from police officers,” Fritz said.

But Fritz said she decided that the costs of opposing the contract were greater than the cost of approving it. She was swayed, she said, by the need to fully staff the police bureau and the risks of having officers regularly working overtime.

“Everywhere I go, community members are asking why their neighborhood doesn’t get needed police attention,” she said, casting her vote.

Fish also cited the police bureau’s staffing shortage and recruitment challenges as his reason for ultimately supporting the contract.

“Response times (for 911) are six minutes or longer, putting all Portlanders at risk,” he said.  “We have a shortage of 65 officers and 23 vacancies to come this month. The trend is only getting worse.”

After the council cast its vote, chants of “shame on you” echoed through City Hall. 

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