The Portland Police declared a violent protest outside the city’s public safety building a riot at midnight on Saturday, ordering the agitators to disperse or risk crowd control measures or arrest.
A gathering of what appeared to be members of anarcho-communist group Antifa pelted Portland Police officers with rocks and attempted to blind them with lasers when the officers tried to push the crowd back from the Penumbra Kelly Building.
“Officers have stayed back a significant distance in the parking lot attempting to deescalate the situation. However, a variety of items have been launched at them and their police vehicles. Paintballs have been fired from guns, and green lasers shined at them,” the police department said on Twitter prior to declaring a riot.
“As officers have attempted to move the unlawful assembly, officers have been struck by rocks, bottles and other dangerous objects,” the department said after the riot declaration.
The rioters’ plans to march to the public safety building were briefly thwarted when police blocked the procession on a bridge along the way. But the rioters later retreated to their starting point and used cars to get to the building, according to a reporter for The Oregonian/Oregon Live.
The rioters brought a mock guillotine with a stuffed bear to the area. The bear and several American flags were burned, according to the police.
Videos posted online show officers using smoke to clear the area. The police arrested 14 people.
The nighttime violence followed rivaling protests Saturday afternoon. Right-wing groups had announced a rally near the Justice Center Saturday afternoon that quickly drew counter demonstrators. Federal authorities forced demonstrators away from a plaza near a federal building as dueling demonstrations by right-wing and left-wing protesters turned violent. Demonstrators hurled rocks and other items at each other and got into fights. Streets were blocked amid the mayhem.
Both sides used shields, bats, and pepper spray according to videos posted online. At nighttime, the Antifa groups roamed through residential areas, pointing flashlights into people’s homes and demanding they come out.
Similar activity previously occurred at the Penumbra Kelly building, including last weekend.
The area includes county and federal buildings and has been the site of numerous recent protests. Department of Homeland Security officers moved through the plaza across from an 18-story federal building. A federal courthouse is also near that area.
Violent demonstrations and riots have gripped Portland for months, following the police-custody killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
In a statement, Portland Police said there had been questions about why the afternoon gathering wasn’t declared a riot and why city police officers didn’t intervene. Incident commanders have to determine whether police action will make things more dangerous, the statement said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.