Vandals toppled a statue of George Washington in Portland on Thursday, local media outlets reported.
According to KATU2, between 30 and 40 people were at the scene at the German American Society in Northeast Portland on the night of June 18, when the statue was torn down.
Some of the individuals wrapped the head of the statue in an American flag and lit the flag on fire, according to CBS Portland affiliate KOIN-TV. They dispersed shortly after the statue was pulled down.
A video shared by the account @hungrybowtie, which captioned the footage, “They did it. They really did it. Sucks to be George Washington right now…,” showed the moment the statue fell off its plinth and hit the ground, while excited shrieks could be heard from the crowd.
Independent reporter Andy Ngo shared footage taken of the burning flag while the statue was still standing, captioning the post, “Antifa rioters on Sandy Blvd. in Portland draped a US flag over a George Washington statue & set it on fire. They then toppled the statue. “Genocidal colonist” & “f— cops” are sprayed on monument.”
“Rioters have began to build another autonomous zone nearby,” Ngo, an expert on the anarcho-communist group Antifa, added, making reference to Seattle’s so-called “autonomous zone,” from which there have been reports of armed individuals manning checkpoints, checking IDs, even shaking down local businesses.
Another American flag was seen burning over the statue as it lay on the ground, according to video footage shared by the same account @hungrybowtie, which captioned the footage, “Another flag burning, this time on George Washington’s back.”
Photos of the toppled statue showed the words “Big Floyd” spray-painted on the concrete plinth, in reference to the death of George Floyd, who on May 25 was filmed pleading with a Minneapolis police officer who was kneeling on his neck. Police were responding to a 911 call which claimed Floyd was behaving erratically and had tried to pay for something with a counterfeit $20-dollar bill.
The police officer filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with second-degree murder. He was initially charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, and still faces those charges.
Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Keung, and Tou Thao, three other Minneapolis Police Department officers involved in the incident, have each been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
The charges brought against the officers have done little to abate the wave of protests following Floyd’s death, some of which have become violent and degenerated into episodes of looting, vandalism, and arson.
Ngo, in another post, shared a Twitter message from PNW Youth Liberation Front, a group that, according to Oregonlive, has been at the center of recent protests in Portland. The message from PNW Youth Liberation Front, which describes itself on Twitter as a “decentralized network of autonomous youth collectives dedicated to direct action towards total liberation,” stated “George Washington torn down, his face in the ground.”
In the caption commenting on the PNW Youth Liberation Front tweet, Ngo wrote: “This is what one of the antifa groups who organized the criminal gathering said. Additionally, one of their comrades urinated on head of the toppled George Washington statue. There is also a substance all over the statue that looks like human diarrhea or possibly tomato sauce.”
Thursday’s toppling of the statue followed attempts on Wednesday to set up a so-called “autonomous zone” outside the residence of Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler.
Portland Police Lieutenant Tina Jones told CBS affiliate KOIN TV that a crowd put up barricades in the North Park Blocks near the redeveloping Pearl District. There were reports of graffiti featuring the letters BLM and the anarchy symbol.
Police dispersed the protesters early Thursday morning.
“I do not want an autonomous zone set up in Portland,” the mayor said, according to MyNorthwest. “I’m watching what’s happening in Seattle, and I’m not impressed. I think it’s a distraction from the larger movement, and the movement is justice for black people.”
“What I’m hearing coming out of Seattle concerns me,” Wheeler added. “Armed people walking around the autonomous zone. People being asked to show their papers and demonstrate where they are from at the entrance to the autonomous zone. Businesses potentially being shaken down to be allowed to operate within the autonomous zone. If you are asking if that is something I support, let me be unequivocally clear: I absolutely do not support that.”