Portland police return to using tear gas during protests Wednesday night

By Sergio Olmos (OPB)
Portland, Ore. Aug. 6, 2020 1:57 p.m.

The mayor say the use of gas was warranted, because officers feared for their lives.

The 69th consecutive night of large scale protests against police brutality and systemic racism ended in tear gas and arrests as the Portland Police Bureau declared a riot about an hour after demonstrations began. Later in the day, Mayor Ted Wheeler accused demonstrators of attempting to “commit murder.”

Around 9 p.m. Wednesday, hundreds of people gathered outside the Portland Police East Precinct in what was promoted as a “direct action march.”


Protesters chanted “Black Lives Matter” and “No justice, no peace.” A small group of moms in yellow shirts linked arms outside the precinct. Danielle James, an activist who has been protesting since demonstrators gathered around the Multnomah County Justice Center on May 27, chanted with the moms, wearing a “Know your rights” shirt.

Some protesters used a hammer to try to break the doors of the East Precinct, but they were unable to breach the security doors. Others set a small garbage can on fire against the door, while a few others spray-painted security cameras.

Related: Portland vacuums tear gas residue from storm drains downtown

By 9:40 p.m. some people had tried to tear plywood off the building and damage windows.

Just before 10 p.m. Portland police declared a riot, about an hour after demonstrations started, and deployed tear gas to disperse protesters.

On Thursday afternoon, the mayor and Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell denounced the night’s events as excessively violent and having little to do with the movement for racial justice, though Wheeler’s account of the evening seemed notably different than what demonstrators and journalists from OPB and other media organizations witnessed.

Based on briefings received from the Portland Police, the Multnomah County Sheriffs Office and the Oregon State Police, the mayor said he believe the lives of city staff had been put at risk and that protesters were attempting to “commit murder” by trapping staff in the police bureau’s east precinct. He said he believed the hundreds that had gathered at the precinct had been “intent on violence " 

Lovell said he believed lives hung in the balance and that the police had witnessed the night before amounted to “planned coordinated attacks.” Wheeler warned footage of the demonstrators would be used to fuel the president’s re-election campaign as he attempts to depict America’s cities as out of control. 


“You are creating the B-roll film that will be used in ads nationally to help Donald Trump during his campaign,” Wheeler said. “If you don’t want to be part of that, then don’t show up.”

Wheeler has apologized for the widespread use of tear gas by Portland officers earlier in this summer of protests for racial justice. He said the use of the gas Wednesday night was warranted. 

Portland police remain restricted in their use of tear gas by a federal temporary restraining order unless “lives or safety of the public or the police are at risk.” The agency has largely not used the gas for weeks, primarily because protests were either absent of police and peaceful in recent days, or because federal officers were doing a majority of the policing at protests. Federal officers were not under the same restrictions around using tear gas and used the crowd control weapon liberally during their policing actions.

Police stated they arrested several people, though details of those arrests were not immediately available Thursday morning. Several protesters received minor injuries during bullrushes, the police tactic that involves police officers sprinting toward protesters and physically pushing the crowd away.

Krista Swan, a mom in a helmet, said she “busted” her knee after police “linebacker-tackled” her to the ground.

“I am bleeding,” Swan said, “but it’s not a big deal. I’ve had babies.”

Portland police and Oregon State Police troopers dispersed protesters into East Portland neighborhoods. In one instance, officers bull-rushed for several blocks until protesters were deep in a residential area.

Carina Jung, a homeowner in the neighborhood, allowed protestors to gather on her lawn. “I was listening from my bed and I could hear the LRAD coming down the street, and I knew I had to offer shelter,” Jung said. She offered protesters water and use of her restroom and a kind of “base” where police couldn’t push them any farther.

“I believe in the cause so much, it’s the least I could do,” Jung said. Protesters chanted at police while they continued walking in formation down the street, unable to disperse the crowd from private property.

Portland police tweeted that they had “reason to believe” an explosive had been planted outside the East Precinct. Almost two hours later Police tweeted that they had recovered the device and it was not an explosive.


Related Stories