Rioters Set Fires, Try to Break Into Federal Courthouse in Portland

July 21, 2020 Updated: July 21, 2020

Rioters tried breaking into a U.S. courthouse in Portland overnight as they and federal forces clashed again.

Video footage from Oregon’s largest city showed a large gathering of hundreds on the steps of the courthouse, as demonstrators goaded federal officers to emerge from the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse.

The group used cars, motorcycles, and bicycles to block the streets around them, according to the Portland Police Bureau.

At one point, rioters started to assault the building. They began breaking plywood covering one side using tools like hammers and crowbars. Many of the rioters were armed with bats and shields and wore helmets and gas masks.

At about 12:45 a.m. on Tuesday, the mob broke through the plywood and started pounding windows with metal objects, breaking at least one window.

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People assist a woman affected by tear gas during riots in Portland, Ore., on July 21, 2020. (Caitlin Ochs/Reuters)

Around the same time, federal forces utilized tear gas and other crowd-control munitions to push the rioters away. As they did so, many people hurled rocks, bottles, and other projectiles at them, according to police officials.

Video showed dozens of people with shields in a tight formation facing off with officers.

People reassembled at the courthouse less than two hours later and lit a fire near a door on the side of the courthouse before pouring accelerant on it. Federal officers again dispersed the crowd.

Other fires were set, including a fire on the awning and side of a building at SW 4th Avenue and SW Yamhill Street, which required Portland Fire & Rescue to respond. Another fire was started in the middle of a sidewalk next to the county courthouse.

Before firefighters arrived, people “continually added flammable material to it causing it to grow and burn against the building,” the Portland Police Bureau said. Police officers responded to provide security for firefighters.

During the mayhem downtown, some of the rioters broke into a jewelry store and stole valuables from inside.

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Demonstrators projected words onto the front of the Multnomah County Justice Center in Portland, Ore., on July 20, 2020. (Gillian Flaccus/AP Photo)

For the most part, police officers refrained from engaging with the demonstrators. At Mayor Ted Wheeler’s insistence, they have cut lines of communication with federal forces.

Videos showed a federal officer trying to arrest one man. A group rushed in and broke the man free.

The PNW Youth Liberation Front, a group linked to the far-left Antifa, said on social media that “fed just got physically beat back by protestors to de-arrest someone in Portland.” The group added: “Don’t let them kidnap your friends.”

And footage showed demonstrators hurling some of the munitions back at the officers, an action that ended earlier this month with a demonstrator being hit in the head with a round. That incident is under investigation.

The violent demonstrations caused $23 million in damage and lost business, a police official told reporters on July 8.

“We’re always hopeful that we’re winding down, but we’re six weeks into this,” Portland Deputy Police Chief Chris Davis said.

“We’ve never seen this intensity of violent, focused criminal activity over this long of a period of time, at least in the time I have been here.”

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