Federal officers use tear gas during protest in South Portland

By Sergio Olmos (OPB)
Oct. 7, 2020 3:38 p.m.

The 121st day of protests for racial justice in Portland ended in tear gas as federal officers quickly declared the gathering an unlawful assembly.

About 50 protesters marched to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in South Portland before 10 p.m. Tuesday.


Officers from the Federal Protective Service announced an unlawful assembly minutes after protesters arrived. One protester threw a smoke bomb on the roof of the ICE facility, likely intending to draw out officers.

Federal officers quickly began to disperse protesters using impact munitions, flash bangs and heavy amounts of tear gas, which crept into nearby homes.

One neighborhood resident, Gwen Boucher, found it difficult to breathe from all the tear gas.


“I thought I was going to die” said Boucher, who struggles with a lung disease. “I used my inhaler and things didn’t get better.”

Boucher said she called 911 for help. Boucher later confronted Portland officers outside her building.

“I live right here and I’m trying to sleep. And you guys with your noisemakers and your goddam tear gas,” she said, “you just about put me in the hospital tonight.”

A Portland police officer responded, “The tear gas wasn’t us. That was the feds.”

After the crowd was initially dispersed, they regrouped and returned to the ICE building around 11:20 p.m.

“They continued to block the street,” Portland police later said in a press release. “Due to the seriousness of the crowd’s criminal behavior, the incident commander determined that the event was an unlawful assembly.”

Portland police then began to disperse the crowd. They claimed objects and rocks were thrown at them. Four people were arrested for a variety of charges, such as disorderly conduct and interfering with a police officer.

One person, a teenager, was charged with assaulting a public safety officer. That’s a potentially serious charge, as many members of Portland’s officer group who respond to demonstrations remain federally deputized — opening the door for potential federal charges against anyone who assaults a federal deputy.

Portland police said they did not use crowd control munitions or tear gas during the night.