Portland. Oregon. Evening of July 16th to 17th – Thursday. The aftermath of Wednesday night and Thursday morning’s protest left many Portlanders frustrated and disheartened with efforts downtown, so that evening, a secondary initiative took place at a new location.
In addition to the expected nightly protest near the Justice Center, whispers spread quickly about a march beginning at Laurelhurst park and ending at an undisclosed spot close by. A group of a few hundred people gathered there around 8pm before discussing together where they would move. It was decided that the demonstration would take place at the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office on E Burnside. While much of the current conversation centers around the PPB and federal officers, the Sheriff’s Office is another armed branch of state government that has been called into question by the public. It is unclear how they have been supporting the city police (and if they have deputies on the front lines standing off against protesters), but as of July 18th, we know for certain that they are just one of many law enforcement agencies sending their help to the PPB. By 8:40pm, the group arrived at the building where officers were already guarding the perimeter.
It was nearly 10pm when the police issued their first LRAD announcement to the crowd, warning against anyone who tried to enter the property. The speaker also asked the “peaceful protester” to leave the area since there had been threats to the building. Protesters on site had just been chanting, “What do we want? / Justice! / If we don’t get it? / Burn it down!”, which romantically and metaphorically speaks to the destruction of systemic oppression.
Meanwhile, across the Willamette River, another more familiar scene developed outside the Justice Center. Earlier on July 16th, police indefinitely closed Lownsdale and Chapman park, evicting and arresting people who remained. They fenced off the space but left the surrounding streets and sidewalks open for public use. As a result, the protesters slowly accumulated on the few blocks that were technically still legal to them. Riot Ribs stationed themselves on SW Salmon and 4th like a homebase. Right before 11pm, people began moving the fence from around the park and incited an immediate police response. Federal officers were seen shortly after lining up on SW Madison and 3rd.
11:30pm marked the beginning of the large-scale violence against protesters for both scenes. As if synchronized, federal officers downtown released a flurry of pepperball shots right as the Portland police started to forcibly push protesters away from the Sheriff’s building. While the PPB retreated after their initial rush, the federal officers continued to fire munitions while unleashing clouds of tear gas. Stand-offs between law enforcement and protesters followed both of these violent outbursts.
Then, another wave of attacks simultaneously began at midnight. While the Justice Center demonstration faced the same barrage of munitions and gas, the East Burnside group fled on foot after police pushed and beat people resisting their order to leave. Many sprinted from officers and were tackled to the ground.Timothy Swales joined the protesters in his car and was accompanying the group out of the area when officers surrounded his vehicle and began shouting unhearable instructions. The officers broke his window and at that point, Swales reversed to get out of harm’s way only to be hit by a police cruiser at the intersection one block away. Swales was then arrested, beaten, and charged with Hit and Run among other crimes. Additionally, during the charge many members of the press and legal observers were shoved and forcibly moved by PPB while trying to document, which would be a direct violation of the ACLU’s restraining order.
While the eastside protest started to lose numbers after the second push, folks downtown took the opportunity to move into the closed parks once federal officers retreated back inside their buildings. Things never escalated to the same extent for the remainder of the night in either location. The timeline of the two protests have uncanny parallels when compared next to one another, but Mayor and Police commissioner Ted Wheeler has staunchly opposed any argument that the Portland police is working with Trump’s federal officers.
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