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Portland protesters once again focus attention on police union building

The 72nd night of Portland protests against police brutality and systemic racism ended when demonstrators set a small fire inside the Portland Police Association headquarters. Flash bangs and arrests followed as police declared a riot.

Just before midnight Sunday, a group of fewer than two dozen protesters surrounded the front door of the police union building and blocked cameras from filming. A few protesters used hammers to breach the wood paneling of the front doors. The group then set a fire, using wood paneling from the exterior of the building to create the small blaze on the floor of the Portland Police Association headquarters.

The turn toward property destruction had followed protesters gathered for hours in Peninsula Park, where they listened to speeches about racial justice.

Portland police declared a riot shortly after. Oregon State Police officers assisted the Portland Police Bureau in clearing protesters from the area.

The officers used batons and flash bangs to push protesters north, into shopping districts and residential neighborhoods.

Protesters tried to slow the police advance by setting up barricades using outdoor tables, construction signs and newspaper dispensers.

Terrance Moses, a Black business owner in the area, drove his pickup to the area to help clean the street after protesters left burning barricades in their wake.

“These was Black-owned businesses ... and you came down here and destroyed it and then tried to use it in the name of Black Lives Matter,” Moses said, waving at the debris in the street. “This does not have anything to do with the cause.”

Jonathan Barwood, a manager of a restaurant nearby, thought the destruction wasn’t as bad as police made it sound.

“I don’t know if they’ve actually damaged any buildings. They were burning like cardboard boxes in some dumpsters,” Barwood said. “But they did destroy a whole bunch of tables that we had set out here, so they were destroying property.”

Barwood said one restaurant was about to open and all of its tables were dragged away in the confrontation.

“I think both sides want a confrontation,” Barwood said. “And that’s too bad, because it’s just a bunch of people here working hard, trying to stay alive during COVID. And restaurants are really struggling. Every single business on this block is struggling, and its very hard when people start throwing stuff.”

Just after 1 a.m., Portland police closed Kenton Park in North Portland, saying a gathering there was still considered a riot. Police said, they had dispersed most of the people at the demonstration by 2 a.m.

Police did not immediately release arrest information, but said they did not use tear gas as a crowd control device Saturday night.

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Sergio Olmos