Thousands Of Portlanders March In Fourth Night Of Demonstrations
Massive crowds gathered in Portland on Monday night for a fourth evening of protests over the killing of George Floyd and other people of color.
The evening's demonstration began around 6 p.m., with a gathering near Revolution Hall. Earlier in the day, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler continued an 8 p.m. curfew for the city, following three prior days of largely peaceful protests that were punctuated by vandalism and theft by small groups of people at times.
Portland leaders said the curfew was meant as a tool for police to use if necessary, but that they would not enforce it if demonstrations remained peaceful.
“I actually think we should be backing off on the curfew because clearly the case is having the opposite impact we’re wanting to have,” Portland Commissioner JoAnn Hardesty said. Hardesty established the curfew last week while Wheeler was away from council duties attending to his ailing mother.
In the early hours of the evening, speakers talked about the deaths of black Americans at the hands of police and informed the crowd about their legal rights during demonstrations.
"We all saw the video. We all know what is going on in America," demonstrator Lyfe Tavarres said at the gathering, referring to the video of Floyd's death. "We have a voice. We are the change."
Before the city's curfew took effect protesters gathered in several areas, including Pioneer Courthouse Square and the Burnside Bridge — where hundreds of people laid face down on the pavement for more than eight minutes in memory of Floyd.
Ahead of the Monday event, Portland police closed a large swath of downtown that encompassed the Multnomah County Justice Center and other buildings that had been the scene of tensions and damage before.
"The closure of this area is due to ongoing public safety concerns and ongoing criminal acts," PPB wrote on its website. "Violations of this order may result in arrest."
A crowd of thousands of people eventually made their way to the Justice Center, where police over loud speakers warned them to stay back. The demonstrators at times took a knee, raised their fists and held up peace signs. They called on the Portland police to open a dialogue and end a militarized police response that contributed to clashes on previous nights' protest.
Just before 8 p.m., TriMet announced it would halt all bus and train service to downtown because of the demonstrations.
The lead up to Monday's demonstrations also saw considerable tension over whether Oregon Gov. Kate Brown would deploy the state's National Guard to help maintain order as other states and cities have done.
Though she said she wrestled with the decision, Brown ultimately chose to send out 50 National Guard soldiers, who officials said would be unarmed. Brown said the soldiers would be working behind the scenes to relieve Portland police officers so the officers could focus on interacting with the public.
The governor drew a distinction between her deployment of the National Guard and President Trump's calls for harsh crackdowns on protesters. Hardesty said she initially opposed using the Guard but later agreed with the plan because they would be restricted to a supporting role.
“We are not entering martial law. We are not going to have armed people on every corner in the city of Portland. We will make sure that the space is there for people to exercise their Constitutional rights,” Hardesty said. “And I want to make sure we don’t forget why people are on the streets in the first place: People took to the street because people have enough of the inequality that African-Americans experience in this country.”
Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting