Fifteen people were arrested in Portland overnight Sunday after a crowd lit fires in the street, violating the county’s burn ban issued because of extremely dry conditions.
Unrest has continued in Oregon’s largest city since May 28 with no signs of stopping.
After a riot led to over 50 arrests the night before, a crowd gathered in north Portland and marched to the Portland Police Bureau’s precinct there.
Rioters have tried burning down the building with people inside, something Mayor and Police Commissioner Ted Wheeler described last month as attempted murder.
Marchers were blocked from directly accessing the building. They dragged a mattress onto a nearby street and lit it on fire. Another mattress was added, along with some yard debris. The fire began to send lit embers into the air.
Because the fire violated the burn ban and firefighters expressed concern about the danger the fire posed to the residential area, police officers told the crowd that the fire would be extinguished.
In a rare show of cooperation, most of the crowd moved back and allowed firefighters to put out the fire.
Later in the night, the crowd blocked an entire street outside the precinct.
“While the crowd blocked the street, drivers in two separate cars trying to proceed were caught by surprise and were stuck in the middle of the crowd,” the bureau said in an incident summary.
A female black driver driving one of the cars shouted at the crowd, telling them: “Get out of the way. Because you killed my brother, move!”
The crowd, which appeared to be mostly white, refused to move. “This is a protest. You’re getting violent with us,” one said.
“You’re setting fires in the streets? No, that’s violence. That’s violent. Get out of my way,” the woman said.
The crowd ultimately let the woman through after several minutes of shouting.
The demonstration fizzled out by around 1 a.m.
People chanted “burn it down” during the demonstration. One speaker said: “We are nonviolent. We are civilly disobedient, we going [to] burn, we going do whatever we have to do to make sure that they understand that black lives matter.”
Fifteen people were arrested, including Adam Layee, 36, for reckless burning and possession of a destructive device.
Another person arrested had a stun gun and a baton, while two had ballistic vests, including one marked with the word “press.”
Four of those arrested came from outside the state: one from Mesa, Arizona, one from Utah, and one from Vancouver, Washington.
During the night, Antifa social media accounts faced backlash from supporters. Antifa is a far-left, anarcho-communist group.
The PNW Youth Liberation Front told people to “be water,” a reference to being fluid during demonstrations and riots.
“Instead of marching straight to the riot line, head-first into clouds of tear gas and violent arrests, let’s move AWAY from the cops. Let’s flow, like water, on the path of least resistance,” the group said. Another group, PNW Resistance, added, “Enough of the ‘slow in the front, protect the back’ stuff, if you can’t keep up, don’t show up.”
People got upset, calling the tweet “ableist” and “exclusionary.” PNW Resistance took it down, saying its moderator was taking a break for the night and the group would write a statement about the post.
Mayor and Police Commissioner Ted Wheeler said in a statement on Sunday night that the riots on Saturday evening “aren’t safe for anyone involved, and don’t move reform forward.”
“I restricted the use of CS to life safety situations, and the incident commander determined that its use was necessary last night at least in part because of the fires being set in the neighborhood. I welcome an open and frank discussion about what tools officers should use, which they should not, and where to draw the lines,” he added.
Footage from Sept. 5:
The statement came after a resident in southeast Portland said his home filled with tear gas, also known as CS gas, while police were dispersing rioters from a police precinct.
Elijah Warren, the resident, said he went outside and was speaking to a police officer when another officer hit him, giving him a concussion.
“He was actually listening to me. He was taking the time to listen, like, ‘oh okay, this is a neighbor,’” Warren told KOIN. “And the other one just hit me.”
In an interview with The Oregonian on Friday, Wheeler said violence from police officers is as much of a concern as violence from rioters.
“We need to make sure on one hand that those who are engaged in this violence and criminal activity are arrested and that they are held accountable for those actions. And on the other hand, the public needs to know that I’ve heard them, that I understand their calls for police reform, that they want a different way of thinking about what public safety looks like in this community,” he said.
“And we also create a police bureau that is deescalated, that is demilitarized, and is really focused on engaging in a meaningful, honest way with the community and rebuilding the trust that’s been lost.”
Wheeler said he understands people who want the National Guard sent to Portland to quell the unrest. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, has rejected his requests to send in the National Guard.
Brown asked law enforcement agencies from nearby counties to send personnel instead, but the heads of those agencies declined, partly because of the recent decision from Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt to not pursue some charges against those arrested during unrest.
“Increasing law enforcement resources in Portland will not solve the nightly violence and now, murder. The only way to make Portland safe again, is to support a policy that holds offenders accountable for their destruction and violence,” Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts said.
“That will require the DA to charge offenders appropriately and a decision by the Multnomah County Presiding Judge not to allow offenders released on their own recognizance, and instead require bail with conditions. The same offenders are arrested night after night, only to be released by the court and not charged with a crime by the DA’s office. The next night they are back at it, endangering the lives of law enforcement and the community all over again.”
Wheeler said Schmidt “is getting a bit of a bad rap here.”
“I think it’s a little early to judge our new district attorney. And as I say, the conversations I’ve had with him have given me every reason to believe that he is serious about prosecuting those who are engaged of acts of serious violence and criminal destruction. I’ve heard nothing to the contrary,” he said.
President Donald Trump weighed in on Monday morning, writing on Twitter: “Rochester N.Y., Brooklyn N.Y., Portland – All had bad nights, all weakly run by Radical Left Democrat Governors and Mayors! Get the picture?”