Portland Police Chief Mike Marshman has written a detailed account of why police officers used pepper spray and detained dozens of people during dueling protests in downtown Portland on June 4.
The demonstrations occurred just a week after three men were stabbed and two killed on a Portland MAX train, and sparked concern that Portland would become the scene of a street fight between supporters of President Donald Trump and antifascists.
Marshman wrote the account in response to questions Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler sent him about the police presence and tactics at the event.
Wheeler, who serves as the city’s police commissioner, was at the police command center during the June 4 events; Marshman monitored the situation from home via radio.
According to Marshman’s letter, on the day of the protest police formed a thick line between a group of activists at a pro-Donald Trump rally in Terry Schrunk Plaza and several thousand counter protesters.
Marshman said officers were wearing protective or riot gear because they were intentionally positioned in a dangerous location, between two groups that were hostile to each other. He said that recent clashes between "alt-right" groups and counter-protesters in Berkeley, California, and elsewhere heightened commanders' concerns about the potential for violence.
The counter-protest included so-called antifasicts, dressed in black and wearing masks. Many of them were positioned in Chapman Square across the street from the Trump rally.
Marshman says police eventually intervened and pushed the antifascists out of Chapman Square after some people tried to lob objects over the line of police and into the Trump rally.
“These objects included urine- and feces-filled balloons, balloons with unknown chemicals, marbles, bricks, and rocks,” he wrote.
Marshman wrote that officers observed people climbing atop a restroom in the park with more bricks.
“This presented an imminent risk of serious physical injury to members of the public and officers,” he wrote. “PPB made a decision to move the people assembled in Chapman Square out of projectile range of Terry Schrunk Plaza to defuse the tension.”
Marshman's letter confirmed that police used flash-bang grenades and impact munitions — rubber bullets, according to journalist accounts — while clearing the square.
But Marshman said that some of the smoke visible in video of the June 4 protests was not the result of devices used by the police, but rather came from fireworks and smoke bombs lit by protesters.
The police later briefly detained dozens of people, including several journalists, and photographed their IDS. Marshman said that police consulted with the city attorney and Multnomah County District Attorney before the mass detention.
Marshman said detectives are currently using the photographed IDs to investigate “criminal behavior."
The ACLU has called the police response to the protests disproportionate, and said that photographing IDs may have violated a state law that protects people from targeting by law enforcement agencies on the basis of their political beliefs.