August 3, 2020 at 2:42 PM EDT
Portland’s downtown protests are the smallest in weeks, after federal officers leave
By Adam Taylor and Emily Wax-Thibodeaux
PORTLAND, Ore. — For the first time in 67 nights of demonstrations, Portland’s Sunday evening protests against racism and police brutality were far smaller, calmer and contemplative, with federal officers pulling back after global criticism over their use of violence.
State police were hands-off on Sunday evening. By 9:30 p.m., a few hundred people — the smallest number in weeks — stood in two parks opposite the downtown Portland Justice Center.
In one corner of a park, there was a candlelight vigil, while in another, a large crowd listened to a 1966 speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr, which was played through a loudspeaker.
“We have come a long, long way, but we have a long, long way to go before the problem is solved,” King’s voice boomed from a recording of his speech at Illinois Wesleyan University.
Matthew Stowers, a 37-year-old puppeteer, was carrying a leaf blower that he had been using to push tear gas away after federal officials had arrived in July.
He said he may not have to use his “air sword” anytime soon.
“It’s been pretty quiet, but I still want to make sure I’m prepared,” he said, adding that even though federal officers had pulled back, the protests were still potent. “A lot of people were out here because they really disagreed with the federal government and the current administration.”
Serena Cruz, 53, executive director of the Virginia Garcia Memorial Foundation, called last night’s protest and the removal of federal officers, “a transition period.”
“There’s still people here, however,” Cruz added. “Because Black Lives Matter.”