Less Violence Occurs in Portland Overnight in Bid to Send Federal Officers Home

President Trump threatened to send in the National Guard if the situation doesn't improve
July 31, 2020 Updated: July 31, 2020

People gathering in Portland overnight committed less violence than normal in the first detente since May, just hours after President Donald Trump threatened to send in the National Guard.

Little law enforcement presence was seen downtown as protesters listened to speeches and urged each other not to provoke a response from federal law enforcement. Both protesters and city and state officials are hoping the Trump administration draws down the number of officers.

Federal agents responded nightly to riots throughout July after the Portland Police Bureau failed to protect a U.S. courthouse.

Speeches began at the Justice Center, a county building that houses a jail and a sheriff’s office, late Thursday. Speakers urged people to refrain from violence, shouted anti-Trump slogans, and verbally attacked the police and other law enforcement.

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A police officer looks on during a protest in Portland, Ore., on July 30, 2020. (Caitlin Ochs/Reuters)

Protesters at one point chanted: “No cops, no KKK, no fascist USA.”

The Black Lives Matter protesters also spoke of racial justice.

The crowd of several hundred—noticeably smaller than earlier this month—later moved a few blocks to the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse, where they gathered outside a fence erected by federal officials to protect the building.

Rioters repeatedly set fire to the courthouse, smashed windows, and assaulted law enforcement before the fence was put up. They only succeeded in toppling the barrier once.

Protesters briefly engaged in acts that have previously sparked a federal response, including trying to take down the fence, hurling items over the fence, and starting fires inside the barrier. Others in the crowd put the fires out, according to video footage from the scene and a nightly summary from the bureau.

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A pig’s head with a police hat burns during a protest outside the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse in Portland, Ore., on July 30, 2020. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

“Some people climbed on or near the fence at the federal courthouse, but others admonished them and they got down. People could be heard in the crowd repeating that the protest was to remain peaceful,” police added.

The crowd ultimately dispersed by 3 a.m. without police interaction.

Though they didn’t cause as much mayhem as other nights, the group did block traffic and break COVID-19 restrictions imposed by Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat. Current rules dictate that outdoor gatherings must include no more than 100 people.

Brown reached an agreement on Wednesday with the Trump administration. Under the deal, federal officers will leave when state and city law enforcement prove they can protect the courthouse and other federal properties.

Brown said officers would start leaving on Thursday, a claim disputed by a number of officials, including acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf.

Trump, a Republican, told reporters at the White House hours earlier that federal officers are remaining in place at least until Saturday.

“Our people are staying there to see whether or not they can do it today and tomorrow. And if they don’t do it, we will send in the National Guard and we’ll take care of it,” he said.

Portland police officers, in a rare show of action, earlier Thursday cleared two parks near the courthouse that had been used as a staging ground during the riots. The action was part of the effort to get the federal government to leave, Mayor and Police Commissioner Ted Wheeler said.

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Protesters walk through Lownsdale Square after some tore down police tape and signs aimed at keeping people out, near the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse in Portland, Ore., on July 30, 2020. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

However, video footage showed people taking down caution tape placed around the parks and re-entering them before night fell.

Two court battles related to the unrest, meanwhile, continued playing out.

Multnomah County Circuit Court Presiding Judge Stephen Bushong temporarily forbade the bureau from live streaming videos captured by protesters on the ground.

“Today’s decision is an important step towards ensuring all people can exercise their rights to protest and assembly without fear of government surveillance,” Jann Carson, interim executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Oregon chapter, said in a statement. The chapter filed a lawsuit this week challenging the bureau’s practice of filming and broadcasting protesters.

Lawyers for the Department of Justice in a separate case said in a filing that people posing as journalists during the rioting should lead to U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon changing his ruling, which temporarily barred federal authorities from arresting or using physical force against journalists and legal observers.

People are abusing the restraining order, or TRO, “to masquerade as members of the press and evade lawful orders, or actively participating in protest activities and even illegal acts while holding themselves out to be members of the press under the protection of the TRO,” the department’s attorneys argued. “The TRO has become ‘an instrument of wrong,’ and must be dissolved,” they added later.

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