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Portland protesters tear down Roosevelt, Lincoln statues during ‘Day of Rage’

Protesters in downtown Portland tore down the statues of two former presidents Sunday night and damaged a museum and several businesses during an event titled “Indigenous People’s Day of Rage.”

Just before 9 p.m. Sunday, a group of around 200 people gathered in Portland’s South Park Blocks and used ropes and a blowtorch to dislodge and topple a statue of President Theodore Roosevelt. Some people splattered red paint on the statue.

Roosevelt expressed hostility toward Native Americans, once saying: “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of every 10 are ... .” He also implemented polices that weakened the rights of tribes in the United States.

Minutes after taking down the Roosevelt statue, a group of people toppled a statue of President Abraham Lincoln and spray painted “Dakota 38″ on the base, a reference to 38 men executed under orders from Lincoln as part of the war carried out against the Dakota people in 1862.

Protesters also caused damage to the Oregon Historical Society, the Portland State University Campus Public Safety office and several businesses. They smashed windows and spray-painted graffiti.

Around 9:40 p.m., Portland police declared the gathering a riot and began to disperse protesters. It was not immediately clear Monday morning if officers made any arrests.

During the more than 120 nights of protests for racial justice in Portland, demonstrators have occasionally toppled statues they view as memorials to oppressors in United States history. Those have included memorials to former presidents Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.

As people destroyed property Sunday night, the demonstrators told people they could not film or take photos.

The destructive night in Portland coincided with Monday’s federally recognized holiday of Christopher Columbus Day. Oregon and many other cities and states choose to recognize Monday as Indigenous People’s Day, instead of celebrating the extensive history of colonization that Columbus participated in and represents.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Sergio Olmos