Protesters marched through downtown Portland on Wednesday night in a march planned regardless of the outcome of the presidential election. Chanting “No cops, no prisons, total abolition,” some demonstrators smashed windows of local businesses.
Oregon State Police, acting as a unified command with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office and the Portland Police Bureau, declared a riot shortly after. Gov. Kate Brown activated the Oregon National Guard to assist local and state police.
Humvees rolled through downtown Portland and National Guard troops in camouflage took to the streets to move protesters out of the area.
Earlier in the day, around 300 anti-capitalist and anarchist demonstrators, most of them wearing black clothing, gathered at the North Park Blocks in downtown Portland.
Just before 6 p.m., the group began to march through downtown Portland. The crowd chanted “What does this look like? Revolution” and held banners that read, “The vote is over, the fight goes on” and “Strong communities make politicians obsolete.”
At an intersection near the Willamette River waterfront, the anarchist crowd ran into a separate group of Black Lives Matter protesters marching from Revolution Hall. One Black activist tried to convince the two groups to join. He addressed the anarchist crowd on the bullhorn. “If you choose to stay with Black people, if you choose to stay with Black organizers, for tonight, stand with Black people. Support Black causes, and be here.”
Speaker says the rev hall crowd, Black Lives Matter marches without police confrontation, doesn’t want to march with this crowd, a black block group that does confront police, because they break windows. speaker asks the crowd to abstain from that tonight and join together pic.twitter.com/tonpaxMVL9— Sergio Olmos (@MrOlmos) November 5, 2020
He said the group marching from Revolution Hall didn’t want to march with the anarchist crowd because they insisted on breaking windows. He urged them not to cause any property damage, and instead to stand together with Black organizers.
Kat Mullins, an organizer with the Black Lives Matter group, said their march was “peaceful, nice and safe.”
“Our group had speakers and were focused on the election and wanting every vote counted,” Mullins said.
Disagreements quickly ensued within the crowd. Some choose to stay on the waterfront with the peaceful Black Lives Matter marchers, while others left dissatisfied with the tactics of simply chanting and marching. Protesters could be heard saying “No bullhorns, no masters” and “We don’t need permission to do anything.”
Protestors are smashing windows of most businesses along the way pic.twitter.com/9VaWLnIJTw— Sergio Olmos (@MrOlmos) November 5, 2020
About 100 protesters moved away from the waterfront and again began smashing windows of dozens of businesses along the way, including several small local businesses. The windows of the local feminist clothing store Wildfang was broken into, as well as a church. Members of the crowd also turned to familiar corporate targets, such as Starbucks.
Law enforcement responded throughout the night when the crowd would damage property. Oregon State Police declared a riot early in the night and ordered protestors to disperse. Oregon National Guard soldiers, who were already on standby in anticipation of unrest with the election, held intersections and helped disperse the crowd.
Portland police and Oregon national guard pic.twitter.com/R7tVejnV7W— Sergio Olmos (@MrOlmos) November 5, 2020
Officers repeatedly engaged with the crowd and then would back off after people had dispersed. No law enforcement agency used CS gas, a common form of tear gas, during the dispersals.
Twelve people were arrested, two with firearms. Charges ranged from trespassing and disorderly conduct to second degree attempted arson. Oregon State Police tweeted that one protestor was arrested while attempting to throw a Molotov cocktail at police, but later clarified that it was a firework.
Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt issued a statement Thursday condemning the property destruction.
"What we saw last night — the destruction of property at multiple businesses including at a female-founded and women run local clothing store, at a church that provides healing and shelter, clothing, food and assistance to homeless individuals and people overcoming substance abuse and addiction and at a hotel that is committed to the revitalization of Old Town Chinatown — is unacceptable and criminal,” Schmidt said.
He added that his office supports peaceful demonstrations, but he plans to work with law enforcement to prosecute people who engage in criminal behavior.