UPDATE (5:51 p.m. PT) — Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has decided not to continue the city's curfew into Tuesday night. City leaders have acknowledged the measure meant to control protests was largely ineffective at calming the surge of people who came onto the streets to demonstrate against police brutality.
The announcement came after a night of overwhelmingly peaceful protests. Demonstrators made a slow loop from Revolution Hall to downtown’s Pioneer Courthouse Square and back, as they protested the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes in Minneapolis.
The protests saw little if any of the tear gas or vandalism that rocked the end of the previous three nights of protests. Rather, a handful of demonstrators acted as organizers for the night, leading a crowd of thousands across the city and bringing them to their destination outside Revolution Hall around 11:30 p.m. The demonstrators who had taken the lead thanked the crowd for gathering peacefully and told them to go home — a first since the demonstrations began Friday evening.
“Last night marked a significant shift in the tenor of recent demonstrations,” Wheeler said appreciatively at a Tuesday morning conference. “And that’s worth calling out. Thousands of people filled our streets, and they did so peacefully.”
Of the thousands who demonstrated peacefully, Police Chief Jami Resch said about 100 did not. She said a small group gathered downtown half an hour after the main demonstration ended and began throwing glass bottles and rocks at police. A dozen people were arrested, according to Resch. Police said they seized two guns.
The morning post-protest press conference, which has become a daily event since protests took hold in Portland, also served as a chance for both Resch and Wheeler to push back against Gov. Kate Brown's remarks Monday that the mayor had asked for the National Guard to confront protesters on the front lines.
“I was alarmed last night to see the governor’s mischaracterization of the city’s request for the National Guard,” Wheeler said, adding he had asked for the troops to protect buildings and not to engage with demonstrators.
"The idea I would ask the governor for the National Guard for the purpose of direct confrontation with demonstrators on the same day Donald Trump is saying military should be deployed into states to crush even peaceful demonstrations,” he continued later, “that is potentially incendiary."
In the absence of a curfew, protesters will be free to fill the streets Tuesday — and potentially many more nights to come — after 8 p.m. Without action from leadership that addresses the concerns of the protesters, Wheeler indicated he sees more nights of demonstrating on the horizon.
“I don’t see how we move out of this current mode of thinking, which is large demonstrations demanding justice," he said. "Until we get to the OK, we’ve now heard it, we’ve acknowledged it, so what concrete actions are we taking next, and I want to hear more from the community about what they think we should do.”
The mayor indicated that both he and Resch would be meeting later Tuesday with people who he said he had been leaders of the demonstrations over these first four nights of protest.
Afterward the police bureau invited media outlets to attend an event outside Self Enhancement Inc., where Wheeler, Resch, Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese, District Attorney Rod Underhill and U.S. Attorney Billy Williams met with four young protesters.
The event was billed as “a small group of individuals representing the protesters,” though the people who met with city leaders readily said they weren’t well-known activists.
“None of us are protest leaders or activists or any of that — we are just people that have concern for the communities that wanted to help,” said Michael Richards, 38, who grew up in North Portland.
The demonstrators in Tuesday’s meeting said they met Friday, the night of the first protest, and began talking with police officers, which eventually landed them at SEI to meet with city leaders. But other well-known organizers expressed frustration in the aftermath of the meeting that four men without deep ties to groups that have been calling for changes for years were brought to ostensibly speak on behalf of protesters.
"I've literally never seen these men before this week in my life," tweeted community organizer Lilith Sinclair, who has emphasized the protests are a leaderless movement. "These people don't represent us."
Wheeler said he had come to hear the perspectives of the four men, calling it the “beginning of the positive impetus for change in our community.”
“This was an opportunity for us to have a frank conversation, to hear expectations,” the mayor said, adding that he plans more conversations in the future.
Tony Hopson, the senior president and CEO of Self Enhancement Inc. said he was encouraged by the dialogue, which he said focused on what transparency, inclusion and accountability could look like in Portland.
“It’s a great start. It’s only a start — got a lot more conversation we need to have going forward,” he said.