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Review Faults Portland Police For Mass Detention Of Protesters

Portland police detained almost four hundred people during a protest last year but didn’t properly document the legal reasons for stopping them. 

That’s the conclusion of investigators with the city’s Independent Police Review Division. 

Police stopped people counter-protesting a rally by the so-called alt-right group Patriot Prayer on June 4, 2017. The mass detention lasted about an hour.

In a report published Thursday, IPR says the Portland Police Bureau has no clear policy regarding mass detention. 

“Currently, the Police Bureau has no written policy governing stops or other forms of temporary detention, including mass detentions. The Police Bureau also does not have a mass arrest policy,” the report states.

“The absence of a policy that addresses mass detentions and arrests presents risk for the City.”

IPR reviewed the incident after 27 community members filed complaints. 

The protest, which followed the fatal stabbing of two men on a TriMet MAX train by a man who’d made white supremacist statements, involved four different groups: alt-right protesters led by the group Patriot Prayer, counter-protesters affiliated with labor groups, the group Portland Stands United Against Hate and Antifa.

The mass detention, also known as a “kettle” or “box-in” took place when police surrounded and detained hundreds of protesters at Southwest 4th Avenue and Morrison Street after they had declared the protest unlawful and ordered people to disperse from Chapman Square.

Community concerns about the incident included police allegedly favoring the Patriot Prayer group over the counter-protesters, use of a detention tactic that swept up innocent bystanders and police photographing people without having evidence they had engaged in a crime.

IPR largely substantiated community concerns regarding the mass detention incident.

The review found that the tactic clearly swept up bystanders along with protesters, including journalists representing the Coos Bay World, Getty Images, The Oregonian, Willamette Week, Portland Tribune and Vice Media.  

The number of people detained was also higher than the Police Bureau had reported. Police individually photographed 389 people with their IDs during the mass detention.

The police bureau said it had stopped and detained the group to investigate disorderly conduct, but IPR found little evidence that officers had reasonable suspicion disorderly conduct was taking place prior to the mass detention.

"While video taken by police and community members during the early moments of the detention show a large group of marchers in the street and sidewalk on Southwest 4th Avenue, there were no videos or reports showing that marchers obstructed vehicles or pedestrians or any of the other elements required by the disorderly conduct statute," the IPR said.

In a written response to the report, the Police Bureau said it started revising its crowd control policies after the incident in question.  

“The Bureau agrees that mass detentions should only be carried out under extraordinary circumstances and at the direction of the Incident Commander,” the response reads.  

The police bureau says it will release draft rules addressing mass detentions in July for public feedback and hopes to start implementing the new rules by October.

IPR also found that the Police Bureau kept the photographs it took of individuals with their IDs during the protest, even though most of those people weren’t arrested or suspected of any crime.

“The Police Bureau does not have a retention policy for digital image data, allowing for photos to be held permanently until staff are told to delete them,” IPR wrote.  

The Bureau said it agrees that it needs to develop additional policies regarding photographing people detained by police and said it will consult with the city attorney on the issue.

The ACLU of Oregon is suing the Portland Police Bureau over the tactics used during the mass detention.

IPR did not substantiate concerns that police had favored the Patriot Prayer group.

IPR did find examples of differences in how police interacted with the groups of protesters, but it didn’t find evidence that favoritism was at play.

A police lieutenant told IPR investigators that protesters in Chapman Square “were treated differently because Rose City Antifa lacked a hierarchical structure with a clear leader,” making it difficult to communicate with them.

IPR found evidence that supported that explanation. For example, the special events sergeant for Central Precinct attempted to contact all the groups organizing protests on June 4, IPR found.  

The sergeant had less success communicating with representatives of Antifa, according to the report: 

The report also notes that community members believed that police were more aggressive at confiscating potential weapons from the protesters in Chapman Square, who were mostly affiliated with Antifa:

The report suggests that those perceived differences might be explained by the fact that Federal Protective Police were largely responsible for monitoring security in Schrunk Plaza, a federal property where the Patriot Prayer group rallied, while Portland Police focused on Chapman Square, where Antifa gathered.

“This variation could be attributed to differences in federal and local policies regarding the seizure of property,” IPR wrote.  

<p>Portland police arrest a protester who skated past a police barricade during an afternoon of protests in downtown Portland on Sunday, June 4, 2017.&nbsp;</p>

Bryan M. Vance

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Portland police arrest a protester who skated past a police barricade during an afternoon of protests in downtown Portland on Sunday, June 4, 2017. 

<p>There was a heavy police presence at Portland's Terry Schrunk Plaza Sunday, June 4, 2017, as a planned Trump Free Speech Rally was met with several counter protests a week after three men were stabbed, two fatally, on a TriMet light-rail train. The suspect in the stabbing had been on an anti-Muslim rant prior to his attack.&nbsp;</p>

Bryan M. Vance

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There was a heavy police presence at Portland's Terry Schrunk Plaza Sunday, June 4, 2017, as a planned Trump Free Speech Rally was met with several counter protests a week after three men were stabbed, two fatally, on a TriMet light-rail train. The suspect in the stabbing had been on an anti-Muslim rant prior to his attack. 

<p>Joey Gibson, the Vancouver, Washington, resident who organized a June Trump Free Speech Rally in Portland addresses the crowd. Gibson held a moment of silence for the victims of the MAX train stabbings.</p>

Bryan M. Vance

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Joey Gibson, the Vancouver, Washington, resident who organized a June Trump Free Speech Rally in Portland addresses the crowd. Gibson held a moment of silence for the victims of the MAX train stabbings.

<p>A counter protest group chants, "Take your hate, and go away" outside City Hall in downtown Portland. Several counter protest groups showed up Sunday to opposed the Trump Free Speech Rally in Terry Schrunk Plaza.</p>

Amelia Templeton

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A counter protest group chants, "Take your hate, and go away" outside City Hall in downtown Portland. Several counter protest groups showed up Sunday to opposed the Trump Free Speech Rally in Terry Schrunk Plaza.

<p>A Portland man known as Pork Chop burns an Antifa flag at a Trump Free Speech Rally Sunday, June 4, 2017.</p>

Bryan M. Vance

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A Portland man known as Pork Chop burns an Antifa flag at a Trump Free Speech Rally Sunday, June 4, 2017.

<p>Ibrahim Mubarak, with Right 2 Survive, was part of the large group of counter protests opposing a Trump Free Speech Rally in Terry Schrunk Plaza Sunday, June 4, 2017. "This country is freedom for everybody," he said. "I have a right to be a Muslim and walk the streets without being attacked."</p>

Bryan M. Vance

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Ibrahim Mubarak, with Right 2 Survive, was part of the large group of counter protests opposing a Trump Free Speech Rally in Terry Schrunk Plaza Sunday, June 4, 2017. "This country is freedom for everybody," he said. "I have a right to be a Muslim and walk the streets without being attacked."

<p>Police dressed in riot gear formed barricades between opposing protest groups, restricting movement between downtown Portland streets Sunday, June 4, 2017.</p>

Bryan M. Vance

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Police dressed in riot gear formed barricades between opposing protest groups, restricting movement between downtown Portland streets Sunday, June 4, 2017.

<p>The scene at a peaceful counter protest in front of Portland City Hall where protesters sang and chanted in opposition to the Trump Free Speech Rally across the street.</p>

Amelia Templeton

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The scene at a peaceful counter protest in front of Portland City Hall where protesters sang and chanted in opposition to the Trump Free Speech Rally across the street.

<p>A pair of bikers for Trump during the Trump Free Speech Rally, Sunday, June 4, 2017.</p>

Bryan M. Vance

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A pair of bikers for Trump during the Trump Free Speech Rally, Sunday, June 4, 2017.

<p>Multiple counter protests were underway in downtown <span class="link-complex-target"><a class="link-complex" href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Portland" target="_blank" rel="hashtag">Portland</a>&nbsp;Sunday, June&nbsp;4, 2017</span>, including this group demanding rent control.</p>

Bryan M. Vance

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Multiple counter protests were underway in downtown Portland Sunday, June 4, 2017, including this group demanding rent control.

<p>Men acting as private security for the pro-Trump crowd at Sunday's rallies wore military-style attire, complete with body armor. Organizers of the event say these men volunteered their services.&nbsp;</p>

Bryan M. Vance

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Men acting as private security for the pro-Trump crowd at Sunday's rallies wore military-style attire, complete with body armor. Organizers of the event say these men volunteered their services. 

<p>A protester at the Trump Free Speech Rally holds up a sign in opposition to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler Sunday, June 4, 2017. One thing both the pro-Trump crowd and the crowd of counter-protesters shared in common was animosity for Portland's mayor.&nbsp;</p>

Bryan M. Vance

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A protester at the Trump Free Speech Rally holds up a sign in opposition to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler Sunday, June 4, 2017. One thing both the pro-Trump crowd and the crowd of counter-protesters shared in common was animosity for Portland's mayor. 

<p>There was a heavy police presence at Terry Schrunk Plaza and nearby Chapman Square Sunday for the Trump Free Speech Rally and the numerous counter protests that popped up to oppose the rally.</p>

Bryan M. Vance

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There was a heavy police presence at Terry Schrunk Plaza and nearby Chapman Square Sunday for the Trump Free Speech Rally and the numerous counter protests that popped up to oppose the rally.

<p>"I'm here to support our president, Donald J. Trump and to support freedom of speech," said&nbsp;Martha Pena at the Trump Free Speech Rally Sunday. Pena, a Mexican-American immigrant, said she hoped to "make people of America aware that their freedom of speech is in jeopardy."&nbsp;</p>

Bryan M. Vance

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"I'm here to support our president, Donald J. Trump and to support freedom of speech," said Martha Pena at the Trump Free Speech Rally Sunday. Pena, a Mexican-American immigrant, said she hoped to "make people of America aware that their freedom of speech is in jeopardy." 

<p>After police say a group of Antifa&nbsp;protesters hurled objects at officers, law enforcement declared their counter-protest unlawful and began firing flash grenades and pepper balls on the crowd to get them to disperse. After being pushed out of Chapman Square, protesters linked arms and formed a standoff with police.</p>

Bryan M. Vance

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After police say a group of Antifa protesters hurled objects at officers, law enforcement declared their counter-protest unlawful and began firing flash grenades and pepper balls on the crowd to get them to disperse. After being pushed out of Chapman Square, protesters linked arms and formed a standoff with police.

<p>Gregory McKelvey, the leader of Portland protest group Portland's Resistance, was among the crowd of counter-protesters who tried to engage the pro-Trump crowd Sunday, June 4, 2017. "This is what America is all about," he said of the opposing protests. "Both sides get to have their freedom of speech, both sides get to have their voices heard."</p>

Bryan M. Vance

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Gregory McKelvey, the leader of Portland protest group Portland's Resistance, was among the crowd of counter-protesters who tried to engage the pro-Trump crowd Sunday, June 4, 2017. "This is what America is all about," he said of the opposing protests. "Both sides get to have their freedom of speech, both sides get to have their voices heard."

<p>Carson Hardly handed out free Oregon strawberries to counter protesters Sunday. "Life is better with strawberries in it," she said. "They're Oregon strawberries," she said.</p>

Bryan M. Vance

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Carson Hardly handed out free Oregon strawberries to counter protesters Sunday. "Life is better with strawberries in it," she said. "They're Oregon strawberries," she said.

<p>Wendy, 72, a Trump supporter from Dallas, Oregon said, "My children are going to have a screaming fit when they find out I've been here."</p>

Amelia Templeton

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Wendy, 72, a Trump supporter from Dallas, Oregon said, "My children are going to have a screaming fit when they find out I've been here."

<p>Protesters sing "No hate, no fear. Immigrants are welcome here," in front of Portland City Hall.</p>

Bryan M. Vance

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Protesters sing "No hate, no fear. Immigrants are welcome here," in front of Portland City Hall.

<p>A protester holds a sign reading "Be like Micah." Micah Fletcher was one of three men stabbed last week on a MAX train.</p>

Bryan M. Vance

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A protester holds a sign reading "Be like Micah." Micah Fletcher was one of three men stabbed last week on a MAX train.

<p>A counter-protester covers his ears after Portland police deployed flash-bang grenade on a group of&nbsp;anti-fascist protesters opposing the Trump Free Speech Rally. Police declared this counter protest an unlawful gathering and forced the protesters to retreat north.&nbsp;</p>

Bryan M. Vance

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A counter-protester covers his ears after Portland police deployed flash-bang grenade on a group of anti-fascist protesters opposing the Trump Free Speech Rally. Police declared this counter protest an unlawful gathering and forced the protesters to retreat north. 

<p>Protest in downtown Portland, Sunday, June 4, 2017.&nbsp;</p>

Bryan M. Vance

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Protest in downtown Portland, Sunday, June 4, 2017. 

<p>Police dressed in riot gear mobilize&nbsp;to follow a group of counter-protesters&nbsp;marching north on Portland's Southwest 4th Avenue. Police eventually pinned the marching crowd in, where they detained dozens of people, including several journalists.</p>

Bryan M. Vance

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Police dressed in riot gear mobilize to follow a group of counter-protesters marching north on Portland's Southwest 4th Avenue. Police eventually pinned the marching crowd in, where they detained dozens of people, including several journalists.

Copyright 2018 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Amelia Templeton is a multimedia reporter and producer for Oregon Public Broadcasting, covering Portland city hall, justice and local news. She was previously a reporter for EarthFix, an award-winning public media project covering the environment in the Northwest.