Day 68 of nightly protests against systemic racism and police violence in Portland started in Peninsula Park Tuesday night, where a few hundred protesters gathered before marching to the Portland Police Association headquarters in North Portland.
The night ended with brief moments of chaos and a conversation between police officers and demonstrators.
The initial march to the PPA headquarters was led by Demetria Hester, the Black woman Jeremy Christian assaulted the day before he stabbed three people in 2017 on a MAX train, killing two.
At the police union, protesters chanted, projected messages such as “dismantle white supremacy” on the side of the building, distributed drinks with information from the National Lawyers Guild taped to the outside and set a dumpster on fire in the middle of the road.
From blocks away, police gave multiple warnings over a loudspeaker, warning protesters to stop trying to break into the PPA building. OPB did not see anyone attempting to break into the boarded-up police union headquarters.
On July 18, protesters broke into PPA and set a small fire which was quickly extinguished and caused minor damage.
A little after 11 p.m. a truck approached the protest at a high speed and was stopped by a protester on a motorcycle. Just as the person got off their bike, the driver of the truck accelerated, knocking the bike over. The pickup driver then proceeded to drive at high speed through the crowd pushing the motorcycle.
Protesters who chased the truck said the driver stopped a block away, got out with a rifle, and ran into a house, prompting rumors among the crowd – now on edge – that the person would return.
In a statement, Portland police said they had interviewed the driver and that they were released without charges.
Soon after, a fight broke out across the street from PPA headquarters, prompting one of the people involved to fire multiple gunshots in the air. Moments of terror ensued as protesters yelled for everyone to take cover. Portland police returned, blocked off North Denver Street, and searched for shell casings. No one was injured.
At 1 a.m., protesters broke into the police association building. People set a PPA sign on fire in the street and they emptied the fridge of Gatorade.
“It’s so cold, it’s got chunks of ice,” rejoiced one protester, barely illuminated by the PPA sign embers.
Soon after, police declared a riot and over the course of the next 30 minutes, they rushed the crowd a number of times, pushed journalists and used mace on multiple protesters. During the dispersal, an activist who videos police was injured and taken to the hospital in an ambulance.
While medics were treating the activist, a line of police stood a few feet away, face-to-face with a crowd of about 30 protesters, legal observers and media.
A medic, who gave the name Phoenix, confronted an officer she said had maced her and beaten her. She and a friend criticized the police for dispersing the entire crowd when only a few people had broken into PPA.
“You are taking the actions of one person and you are punishing a movement,” Phoenix said. “One person did a fire and you think it’s OK to attack everybody here?”
“You’re all practicing group punishment,” the officer replied. “Because a few cops have done wrong things and you think we all need to suffer and be out here 69 days straight.”
“Nobody in this group has done anything wrong and you guys continue to baton us, to mace us, to gas us, to push us,” Phoenix replied.
“This is what we lack,” the officer said, moments before he was summoned back to a van to leave the area. “We lack these conversations.”
Police said they arrested three people on charges ranging from interfering with a police officer, to riot, to attempted assault on a public safety officer.