Weeks of nightly violent demonstrations in Portland, Oregon, have caused an estimated $23 million in damage and lost customers to downtown businesses, a police official said.
“The level of violence, and criminal activity, and property damage that we’ve seen … is really unprecedented in Portland’s history,” Portland Deputy Police Chief Chris Davis said July 8 during a briefing.
“We’re always hopeful that we’re winding down, but we’re six weeks into this. 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.”
The demonstrations started May 28 at a federal immigration facility, when someone in the crowd threw a Molotov cocktail at a building.
Protesters moved to the Justice Center, a building that includes a police precinct, the next night and have terrorized the officers there every night since.
The agitators use a variety of techniques, including barricading doors from the outside, shining lasers in the eyes of officers who respond, and launching projectiles such as frozen water bottles at the officers, Davis said.
People who walk downtown see boarded-up businesses and extensive damage.
The violent rioters—at least some of whom are known members of Antifa, a far-left anarcho-communist group—have in recent days targeted the Hatfield Federal Courthouse.
Seven were arrested for assaults on law enforcement officers and other charges related to attacks on the courthouse, while Portland police officers have taken dozens into custody.
Officials are seeing large groups that, in some cases, number over 10,000 during the day. Those groups are peaceful, and few police officers are required to patrol the protests, Davis said.
But at night, a different group emerges.
“Protests and this are two different things. The Black Lives Matter movement is not violent,” Davis told reporters.
He described the people involved in the mayhem as “a small group of agitators that is attempting to hijack that message and use it as a cover for criminal activity.”
The agitators scrawl messages on the Justice Center and other buildings, many of which refer to dead police officers. The group is using sophisticated tactics that include having people in the front deploying umbrellas and other items while others behind them launch projectiles before fleeing, Davis said.
Earlier July 8, the Portland Police Association, a police union, said it has no confidence that the City Council will stop the ongoing rioting and looting.
Mayor Ted Wheeler, a Democrat, has condemned the violence, but his voice has been drowned out by fellow City Council members’ “hyper-fixation only on police behavior,” Daryl Turner, president of the union, said in a statement.
“Our officers have endured weeks of rocks, bricks, bottles, mortars, and other objects hurled at them with hate. Our officers have endured insults, many of them vile words filled with anger,” he said.
“Enough. The people who put on a badge and uniform every day are human beings.”
A July 8–9 agenda for the City Council, which includes Wheeler, City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero, and four commissioners, makes no mention of the riots or any attempt to quell them.