UPDATE (5:05 p.m. PT) — Protests prompted by the death of George Floyd resumed Sunday in Portland, even as Mayor Ted Wheeler extended the city’s curfew for another night and transportation agencies began limiting access to the central city.
The emergency curfew, which will be in effect from 8 p.m. Sunday to 6 a.m. Monday, bans travel and allows officers to cite those who disobey.
Elsewhere in Oregon, other communities have also implemented curfews following late-night protests and damage. Eugene’s is effective at 9 p.m. Sunday for the downtown area; Salem’s begins at 8 p.m. Sunday and continues until 6 a.m. Monday.
But the third day of protests began well before those curfews in many communities, including Portland. A crowd gathered in front of the Multnomah County Justice Center in the afternoon, and Portland Police declared the protest an illegal gathering at 4:30 p.m. after reports that some in the crowd were throwing things at officers.
Another protest was planned for 6 p.m. at Laurelhurst Park.
City leaders hoped to avoid more violence, in part by limiting access to previous hot spots. TriMet shut service to downtown stops at 3:30 p.m., and highway exits into downtown were closed late Sunday afternoon until midnight.
In remarks made Sunday morning, Wheeler said Saturday night’s events showed the events were no longer about Floyd. The black Minnesota man died May 25 after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, sparking outrage and protests across the country.
But the movement, Wheeler said, had been co-opted.
“It no longer feels like sincere mourning for the death of George Floyd and many other black men and women in this country,” he said. “This behavior we’ve seen for the second night is blatant lawlessness and selfish violence.”
He pinned the chaos on a small group of agitators, using, he said, the “moral soul of this movement” as cover.
Following the first night of protests, the police bureau’s deputy chief Chris Davis remarked that Friday night’s riots had been “fairly organized-appearing,” leading investigators to wonder whether the rioting was coordinated.
But, on Sunday morning, Chief Jami Resch, who had returned from mandated furlough, said the second night’s protests had been “different in nature,” with smaller crowds splintering off.
Police reported “significant” property damage following Saturday night’s protests. Portland Fire & Rescue reported fires set to five structures, two vehicles, and a dozen categorized as “dumpster or miscellaneous.” Early Sunday morning, the police bureau said they’d made 48 arrests. Thirty of those arrested were aged 21 or younger. Resch said there’s been a mix of local Portlanders and protesters from elsewhere.
Resch said departments from across the region had sent officers to assist Saturday night: police departments for the Port of Portland, Gresham, and Washougal, the sheriffs’ offices from Washington and Multnomah County, and the Oregon State Police.
Portland’s Saturday curfew had been put in place in an effort to quell or avoid a repeat of Friday evening, when downtown businesses were looted and the Multnomah County Justice Center burned.
In the hours before Saturday’s curfew kicked in, a large crowd grew outside the Justice Center to protest the death of Floyd.
Early Saturday evening, the gathering was focused clearly on memorializing Floyd. Large crowds moved through downtown Portland, chanting in support of Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement, garnering appreciative car honks. Protesters lay face down in front of the Justice Center, chanting “I Can’t Breathe,” the words Floyd uttered shortly before his death.
But police didn’t wait for the curfew to start dispersing the crowd. A little after 7 p.m., officers began blanketing the area with tear gas, ordering protesters to leave. The crowd charged north into Old Town and eventually east across the Steel Bridge. Some lingered downtown, where officers continued to use tear gas in an effort to clear the area. Others marched over to the Lloyd District, taking the protests to the city’s East side.
As the evening wore on and the protest splintered, the gathering developed a cat-and-mouse element, with police cars chasing back and forth across bridges trying to disperse protesters who would break apart and regroup. The looting and vandalism that rocked the end of Friday’s protests continued. Police reported fireworks thrown at the Multnomah County Courthouse. Some protesters smashed windows and set fires.
In his remarks Sunday, Mike Myers, the director of the Portland’s Bureau of Emergency Management, said it had been clear to him since the night of the first protests that a curfew order would be necessary to prevent further destruction. He recounted waking up the city attorney at 1 a.m. to ensure the mayor had “that curfew order in his hand when he lands on the ground.” Wheeler had been out of town with his family, attending to his mother’s hospice care.
But the curfew order has since drawn criticism from Oregon civil rights groups. In a statement, Oregon’s American Civil Liberties Union called it “an extraordinary measure that will likely lead to selective enforcement.” Officers, the statement noted, already had the power to intervene if protesters were breaking the law.
The Oregon chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Oregon Justice Resource Center also condemned the curfew, accusing elected officials of using the same mechanisms that brought protesters out onto the streets in the first place — aggressive policing.
“The implementation of a curfew in Portland as a response to protests is an attack on our rights,” the groups said. “This is a critical moment to confront police violence and brutality, protect black life, and support necessary healing for our communities of color through systematic reforms and resources.”
According to the bureau, at least 26 people have been arrested with charges related to the curfew. (The bureau didn’t list the charges against the nine juveniles arrested). Of the 26 known curfew-related arrests, 21 people had other charges listed.
In a statement, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who had asked for the curfew when the mayor was out of town, said she understood the concerns that a curfew would lead to over-policing. The intent, she wrote, was to give a chance for protesters to refocus.
“Given the incredibly high tension during this time, I want to give Portland a moment to cool off and reground ourselves,” she wrote. “This is a moment to recalibrate and figure out how each and every Portlander will act to support the black community because we cannot accept the conditions and systems that continue to harm us.”
Hardesty had expressed frustration after the first night of protests that reporters appeared most interested in police response and not the pain that had caused the unrest in the first place. In Sunday’s statement, she emphasized once again the community’s focus should remain on this pain and the systemic racism that caused it “rather than obsess over the narrative of destruction when people protest.”
This story will be updated.