Protesters, federal officers clash outside Portland’s courthouse Thursday

By Conrad Wilson (OPB) and Jonathan Levinson (OPB)
March 12, 2021 6:42 a.m. Updated: March 13, 2021 1:07 a.m.

For the first time in months, federal officers filled the parks across the street from the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse in downtown Portland with clouds of tear gas Thursday night as a group of about 50 protesters smashed several windows of the building and spray-painted parts of the stone façade.

The protest happened just days after the federal government removed the metal anti-personnel fence that had surrounded the building for more than eight months. At the time, a spokesperson for the Federal Protective Service called the dismantling a “return to normalcy.”


Demonstrators rallied Thursday against numerous causes including the Line 3 pipeline, a proposed oil distribution route between Alberta, Canada, and Wisconsin that would violate treaty rights of the Anishinaabe, an indigenous group in parts of the U.S. and Canada.

Earlier in the day, protesters marched through downtown to protest the pipeline, where the demonstration was largely focused on large financial institutions. During that afternoon protest, officers from the Department of Homeland Security pushed marchers away from the federal courthouse. Afterward, a construction crew erected a small plywood barrier outside the front doors of the courthouse.

Thursday afternoon, a group entered the Wells Fargo Center in downtown Portland.


The Portland Police Bureau arrested 22 year-old Darby Howard downtown after Howard allegedly kicked and damaged an automatic sliding door and punched a television in the building’s lobby, the Multnomah County district attorney said in a news release.

Howard was arrested outside the federal courthouse; he is accused of punching a Portland police officer in the head when police attempted to arrest him, the district attorney’s office said. As he was being arrested, Howard tried to push through a line of officers, but fell and was then handcuffed, prosecutors say.

District Attorney Mike Schmidt charged Howard with one count of resisting arrest, one count of attempting to assault a public safety officer and one count of criminal mischief in the first degree.

Later Thursday night, Howard was arrested again, this time by officers with the Federal Protective Service. Howard is accused of breaking one of the windows of the Hatfield courthouse using an electric scooter, Senior Special Agent Micah Coring said in court documents. A federal judge declined to release Howard, who is being held at the Multnomah County Jail.

In scenes reminiscent of last summer, when teams of federal law enforcement officers deployed to Portland in an attempt to quell massive racial justice protests, officers clad in helmets, tactical gear and shields once again cleared downtown streets through clouds of tear gas and smoke.

“We are making a plan to add additional officers [Friday] in an effort to respond should significant events arise,” Portland Police Sgt. Kevin Allen said.

The courthouse had recently been restored after this summer’s vandalism, which included broken windows and graffiti. Federal officials said there were an estimated $2.3 million in damage to federal buildings in Oregon during this summer’s protests, including $1.6 million in damage to the federal courthouse.