“You can’t control people’s anger,” Dorris said, as the fire flickered in front of him. “Black voices have been silenced. We’ve been screaming for years and years about police violence.”
The 63-year-old Black man gazed out at the largely White crowd of protesters and smiled, even as the smoke drifted into his home.
“Every other week it seems like they’re here,” he said. “I love it. Our voices were ignored. They’re being heard.”
The small group of protesters chipping away at the plywood on the police union building pried it loose and set a small fire in the entrance, igniting chunks of the wood and tossing them inside. Moments later, Portland police declared a riot, put out the flames, and began an hours-long game of cat-and-mouse, chasing the protesters down business-lined streets and through a park in North Portland.
The Portland Police Bureau said it made “several” arrests early Sunday morning, but it did not release information on who was arrested or how many people had been taken into custody. By 2 a.m., the protest had largely petered out.
There were multiple peaceful protests around the city on Saturday, but after a brief lull following the Trump administration’s partial retreat from the city last month, the late-night protests have been ratcheting up this week with a renewed focus on the Portland Police Bureau.
Portland police used tear gas again on Wednesday after weeks of refraining. On Friday night, videos of two arrests sparked criticism over the bureau’s tactics. One showed a man who said he was providing medical supplies punched and pepper-sprayed in the face as officers held him to the ground. In the other, a woman who refused police orders to get out of the street was surrounded by officers and tackled to the ground as she pushed back. In both cases, it’s not evident in the videos what proceeded the encounters.
“We do ask people not to rush to judgment about a short clip at the end of a confrontation,” Portland police spokesman Sgt. Kevin Allen told The Washington Post. Allen said he had no additional information to share about the arrests yet, but added that the Bureau reviews all use-of-force incidents.
Portland police confirmed Saturday that they are also investigating an alleged incident early Saturday morning that had many protesters on edge. Police responded to a 911 call around 2:30 a.m. reporting multiple explosions in a Northeast Portland park, where witness accounts posted to social media allege two men threw small homemade bombs at protesters gathered in the park.
As anger has been bubbling back up among demonstrators, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who also serves as the city’s police commissioner, held a news conference on Thursday in which he likened some of the protesters’ actions to attempted murder. He pointed to a Wednesday night incident in which he said protesters barricaded exits to the Portland Police Bureau’s East Precinct building using cars and wooden planks and disabled security cameras, starting a fire that “was intended to cause serious injury or death, and it very well could have.”
“When you commit arson with an accelerant in an attempt to burn down a building that is occupied by people who you have intentionally trapped inside, you are not demonstrating, you are attempting to commit murder,” Wheeler said, according to video posted by news station KPTV. “You are creating the B-roll film that will be used in ads nationally to help Donald Trump during his campaign. If you don’t want to be part of that, then don’t show up.”
Those comments riled many people who drew comparisons to the language used by President Trump, who said in an Axios interview last week that Wheeler was “lucky he got away with his life” amid crowds of protesters who were criticizing his leadership during a demonstration where he was affected by federal officers’ tear gas.
The Portland police union president also lashed out at protesters in a heated letter on Thursday, claiming that Portland has been “filled with violence” after protesters set fire to a trash can leaned against the boarded-up wall of a police precinct.
“I am disgusted that our City has come to this,” Daryl Turner, the police union president, said.
Most protesters seemed largely undaunted by the police officers outfitted in riot gear who showed up to drive them away from the police union building late Saturday night.
Fleeing protesters pulled wooden barriers into the street to block the officers’ path. They set another fire in the street and braced for the crowd-control weapons that have become a nearly ubiquitous presence in the city since the protests began in late May.
Portland police repeatedly threatened to use tear gas, which they are only permitted to use during a riot, but they did not. A small number of protesters tossed water bottles and glass containers at the officers. Portland police detonated several flash-bang explosives in the air and launched a few smoke canisters into the crowd. The well-practiced protesters ignored the smoke bombs, which were out within minutes.