Portland, Oregon, police officers declared late on July 4 that a protest near the Justice Center had become a riot, and used crowd-control munitions, including a type of tear gas, in an attempt to disperse the crowd.
Meanwhile, the city’s top police official railed against “nightly criminal activity that destroys the value and fabric of our community.”
Nightly demonstrations have continued for weeks in Oregon’s largest city, and the situation became so violent overnight on July 4 that the city’s police department stopped handling non-emergency calls because so many officers were dealing with the rioting. An officer was injured when commercial-grade fireworks exploded near her during the demonstrations.
More than a dozen people were arrested, the bureau said in a press release. One man who was arrested had a loaded firearm and a knife on him. Possession of the firearm violated city code, police officials said.
Several hundred demonstrators gathered and fired dozens of fireworks, including commercial-grade mortars, at the Justice Center, which houses a police precinct, and the nearby federal courthouse, police officials said. The group also lit several fires.
Officers declared a riot just after 11 p.m. and used crowd-control munitions, including CS gas—a type of tear gas—in an attempt to disperse the crowd.
During the attempt, one group of officers had mortars thrown at them, and, as they retreated, people chased them and threw more projectiles, such as bricks and lit fireworks.
This is some of the video taken by an Officer who was embedded with a Rapid Response Team tonight. The Officer sustained injury from a mortar that exploded near her feet while she was recording. pic.twitter.com/S4JvlXioZc
— Portland Police (@PortlandPolice) July 5, 2020
Video footage from the area showed demonstrators repeatedly clashing with police.
In updates issued to the public every hour, a police spokeswoman urged people to clear the area, warned against locals from traveling to anywhere downtown, and said people who didn’t follow orders would be arrested.
Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell, who was sworn in on June 11, said in a video message, released around 4 a.m. local time, that the actions of people in the crowd put lives at risk.
“We want community members to feel free to express themselves peacefully,” he said. “Some of what I witnessed tonight by a small group of individuals was not peaceful. It was aggressive and dangerous.
“Our community deserves better than nightly criminal activity that destroys value and the fabric of our community.”