Portland protesters set fire to the city’s police association building

Portland protesters set fire to the city’s police association building
Source: Dave Killen/The Oregonian via AP

According to a report by the Portland Police Bureau, protesters in northern Portland broke into the Portland Police Association’s (PPA) office on Saturday night and set fire to the building.

The incident marked the 52nd night of demonstrations in the city since the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by Derek Chauvin, a white police officer in Minneapolis.

The Portland police bureau declared the incident a riot and ordered protesters to leave the area.

“This event has been declared a riot. Move to the east now,” the bureau tweeted. “If you do not move to the east you will be subject to arrest or use of force to include crowd control munitions. Leave the area now.”

Police officers arrested several protesters and extinguished the fire soon after it was started.

While Portland police were in north Portland dealing with the fire, federal troops quelled a separate protest in Multnomah County Justice Center and the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse in downtown Portland.

Earlier on Saturday, a fence had been put up around the courthouse, but by 9:45 that evening protesters had begun to demolish it.

Federal troops arrived before 11 p.m. to clear the area, deploying tear gas on protesters and using nonlethal munitions to dispel them. Some officers also beat protesters with batons.

The presence of federal troops in the city has been widely criticized by officials, especially after videos began circulating online of unidentified federal officers arresting protesters and putting them in unmarked vehicles.

On Friday, Senator Jeff Merkley tweeted a video of one such arrest. The video showed two federal officers, without any identifiable badges, arresting a male protester in black clothes and driving him away in an unmarked van.

Merkley tweeted, “Authoritarian governments, not democratic republics, send unmarked authorities after protesters. These Trump/Barr tactics designed to eliminate any accountability are absolutely unacceptable in America, and must end.”

On Friday, the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said in a statement that its agents had arrested the protester because they “had information indicating the person in the video was suspected of assaults against federal agents or destruction of federal property.”

The CBP added that as its agents approached the protester “a large and violent mob moved towards their location. For everyone’s safety, CBP agents quickly moved the suspect to a safer location for further questioning.”

The CBP further wrote that its “agents identified themselves and were wearing CBP insignia during the encounter. The names of the agents were not displayed due to recent doxing incidents against law enforcement personnel who serve and protect our country.”

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler condemned the actions of the federal troops in a video news conference on Friday, referring to them as President Donald Trump’s “personal army.”

“This is part of a coordinated strategy out of Trump’s White House to use federal troops to bolster his sagging polling data, and it is an absolute abuse of federal law enforcement officials,” Wheeler stated.

“This is not the America we want. This is not the Portland we want. We’re demanding that the president remove these additional troops that he sent to our city. It is not helping to contain or de-escalate the situation. It’s obviously having exactly the opposite impact.”

Wheeler went on to add that “As we were starting to see things de-escalate, their actions last Saturday and every night since have actually ratcheted up the tension on our streets.”

Last Saturday, a peaceful protester’s skull was fractured after he was shot in the head by federal agents using nonlethal munition.

The federal response to the protests comes after Trump issued an executive order on June 26 to punish anyone guilty of “willful injury” of federal property with up to ten years in prison. The order followed the destruction of monuments by protesters, many of which were associated with racist legacies.

After the order was released, the Protecting American Communities Task Force was created by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Federal troops from the CBP and the US Marshals service were deployed to the cities of Washington, Portland and Seattle as part of the task force.

On Friday, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum filed a lawsuit in federal court against the DHS, CBP and the US Marshals Service for using violent tactics against the protesters.

“We are today asking the federal court to stop the federal police from secretly stopping and forcibly grabbing Oregonians off our streets,” Rosenblum stated.

Rosenblum also announced a state criminal investigation with the Multnomah County District Attorney into the incident last Saturday that resulted in the peaceful protester’s skull being fractured.

“The federal administration has chosen Portland to use their scare tactics to stop our residents from protesting police brutality and from supporting the Black Lives Matter movement," Rosenblum said.

“Every American should be repulsed when they see this happening. If this can happen here in Portland, it can happen anywhere."

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