UPDATE (2:48 p.m. PT) — An evening vigil for George Floyd and other victims of police violence drew a large, peaceful crowd in Portland on Friday, but eventually led to damage to buildings and looting.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler declared a State of Emergency in response to the night of violence just before 4 a.m. Saturday. The emergency order includes a nightly curfew, effective immediately. The first night’s curfew lasted until 6 a.m. Saturday; curfew will resume 8 p.m. Saturday and extend to 6 a.m. Sunday morning, Wheeler said.
Wheeler and other local leaders including Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, Portland Police Bureau Deputy Chief Chris Davis, Portland Fire and Rescue Chief Sara Boone, Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese, and others held a press conference Saturday morning to discuss the night’s events.
PPB announced Saturday morning that police had arrested 13 people for a variety of charges including theft, burglary, riot and arson. More arrests are pending, the agency said.
The vigil began around 6 p.m. at Peninsula Park, where hundreds of people wearing masks and socially distancing gathered to hear speakers decry the death of Black Americans like George Floyd — a Minneapolis man who died Monday after police restrained him, kneeled on his neck for several minutes, and ignored Floyd’s pleas that he could not breathe.
As the group of more than 1,000 protesters made their way onto the Burnside Bridge, they slowed to a crawl to let everyone catch up and consolidate. Up front, a protester waved an upside down American flag and another group held a large sign that read, “I can’t breathe.”
“It’s important to show representation for our people,” said protester Carlos, who didn’t want to use his last name. “It will be out here tomorrow. It could be out here next week. Just because it’s across the country today doesn’t mean it won’t affect us tomorrow.”
The group paused once more on the west side of the bridge. Everyone in front locked arms before continuing into downtown Portland.
“George Floyd! Say his name,” they shouted.
Out in front of the protesters was Portland-based musician Spazz Gotti, elated and broadcasting on Facebook Live.
“Martin Luther King had a dream and we’re living it,” he said. “Everybody united marching together. This is amazing.”
Eventually, some members of the crowd marched to the Multnomah County Justice Center in downtown Portland. The building is home to the county jail and police headquarters.
Video showed some protesters breaking windows on the building before entering, damaged computers, spraying graffiti and setting a small fire. Portland police in riot gear quickly moved into the area shortly after 11 p.m. and ordered people to disperse from the area. Police used tear gas and loud speakers to move the crowd away from the Justice Center and regain control of the building.
Shortly after the fire started, Wheeler urged protesters to remain peaceful.
“Portland, this is NOT us. When you destroy our city, you are destroying our community. When you act in violence against each other, you are hurting all of us. How does this honor the legacy of George Floyd? Protest, speak truth, but don’t tear your city apart in the process,” the mayor wrote in a tweet.
Some protesters then moved on from the Justice Center and broke into stores and other buildings, including Apple and Louis Vuitton. Items were later dragged into the street and set on fire as Portland police continued to deploy tear gas.
Just before midnight, as damage began to increase, Wheeler took to Twitter again, this time in a more emotional tone.
ENOUGH.— Mayor Ted Wheeler (@tedwheeler) May 30, 2020
I had to leave Portland today because my mother is dying. I am with family to prepare for her final moments. This is hard, this is personal, but so is watching my city get destroyed.
I’m coming back NOW. You will be hearing from me, @PortlandPolice, community leaders.
“ENOUGH. I had to leave Portland today because my mother is dying. I am with family to prepare for her final moments. This is hard, this is personal, but so is watching my city get destroyed. I’m coming back NOW. You will be hearing from me, @PortlandPolice,
Police eventually declared the event a riot and began separating protesters to make them easier to disperse. However, fires continued well into the night, with one set of protesters starting a blaze inside a downtown Chase Bank location. It was not immediately clear early Saturday morning if anyone had been arrested during the riot.
Speaking to KGW after 12:30 a.m., Wheeler said he plans to visit businesses Saturday that had been damaged by demonstrators.