Among those arrested in the swift crackdown was a Black activist who survived a hate crime in 2017 and has been a prominent organizer among the Wall of Moms. Demetria Hester, who was attacked by an avowed white supremacist in 2017 the day before he killed two men and grievously injured a third during a hate-filled rant on a light-rail train, was arrested just before midnight on Sunday, police confirmed.
Video shows officers walking into a group of people and telling 46-year-old Hester, “you’re under arrest.” The woman calmly followed the officers, who loaded her into a police vehicle. She was later charged with disorderly conduct and interfering with a peace officer.
Police made 16 arrests on Sunday night and early Monday morning, charging each person with either disorderly conduct, interfering with a peace officer, or both.
The police bureau said in a statement that the arrests came after someone threw a “mortar” at officers, injuring two and burning through a mask one officer was wearing. They shared photos of officers’ injuries and the scorched mask.
On May 25, 2017, Hester was riding home on a light-rail train when Jeremy Christian boarded and began shouting that he was “a Nazi, that he hated all Muslims, Blacks, Jews,” Hester later testified in court. She told him to “shut up.” When she got off the train, Christian followed her and flung a Gatorade bottle into her face, hitting her in the eye.
When police arrived, Hester pointed out Christian, who was still standing nearby on the light-rail platform. Officers did not arrest him.
The next day, Christian confronted two teenage Black girls on a light-rail train. When three White men intervened to stop him, Christian pulled out a knife and stabbed each of them. Ricky John Best, 53, and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23, died of their wounds and Micah David-Cole Fletcher, 21, survived a cut across his throat. Christian was convicted of hate crime, murder and other charges in February.
Since the crime, Hester has been active in Portland politics. She came forward a few months after the attack to share her story and to slam the police and public transit officials for failing to arrest Christian on the night he accosted her.
When President Trump ordered federal agents to downtown Portland in July, Hester joined the Wall of Moms who formed a human barrier between federal officers and activists. She has been one of the Black women leading the Moms United for Black Lives group, which grew out of the Wall of Moms. Hester is also a plaintiff in a lawsuit against federal police contesting their use of aggressive tactics on largely peaceful protests.
Activists decried Hester’s arrest late Sunday night.
“PPB just arrested a survivor of the MAX violence,” the Council on American-Islamic Relations Oregon tweeted after video of the arrest surfaced on social media. “This is unconscionable and wrong. She must be released now.”
Portland police said that Sunday night’s crackdown, in which police drove the crowd into a residential neighborhood and made multiple arrests in a nearby park, came after people barricaded streets and set a fire in front of the police union building within three minutes of the crowd’s arrival.
At past protests, including on Saturday night, police have allowed protesters to block the street and stand around fires set in dumpsters in the road for hours. But on Sunday, police quickly broke up the crowd.
After the crowd thinned, police drove through the Kenton neighborhood with dozens of riot police perched on vans. They shouted at small groups of protesters, urging them to go home.
One of the vans stopped in front of a home where residents had invited a few people to stay on their lawn after the dispersal order. Police dismounted the van and exchanged verbal barbs with the people in the yard, telling them to “go home.” Two officers grabbed a pallet of water bottles that the residents had placed in their yard.
When a man shouted at the officers that they were stealing his property, one Portland Police officer responded by accusing him of throwing water bottles at police. A short time later, the riot police returned to the van and drove away.
The residents of the home, who asked not to be named, told The Washington Post they were frustrated by the police actions in their neighborhood.
“I’m stuck, trapped in my own home because [the police] are having a fit,” one of the residents said.
After the initial dispersal, a smaller crowd of protesters returned to the police union building and shouted at police, who made a few more arrests but did not use crowd control munitions to chase the group away. Eventually, officers left, and the protesters milled around into the early morning hours.