Fires and Chaos In The Streets Of Portland

In this May 29, 2020, photo, Portlanders march with flares from the George Floyd vigil at Peninsula Park towards the Justice Center downtown in Portland, Oregon. Protests have been erupting all over the country after George Floyd died earlier this week in police custody in Minneapolis. (Dave Killen/The Oregonian via AP)

This past Tuesday, a group of extremists, later identified as members of Antifa, were reported to have attacked police officers all around Portland as part of a string of business vandalizations and the lighting of multiple fires along many roads.

This new riot devolved out of a separate peaceful rally that had taken place earlier that same day that law enforcement entities in Portland described as activists “sing[ing] and chant[ing] as they walked peacefully.”

Just mere hours after the supposedly peaceful display took place, a large group of combatants “wearing helmets and carrying gas masks, backpacks and tote bags” charged onto the scene.

The law enforcement authorities declared the event a riot and described the events that unfolded:

  • The masked rioters attempted to get a fire lit inside a dumpster. A group of people marched toward the Justice Center while hiding their actions and movements behind umbrellas. A group of around two people attempted to force open the north side doors of the building. Several more people hide yet another attempt to start a dumpster fire with a set of umbrellas at about 9:21 P.M. while a chorus of chants called for the burning down of the building.
  • Law enforcement officers attempted to move forward on the crowd to make space for Portland Fire and Rescue to enter and put out the fires. In response, many people threw frozen water bottles, glass bottles, eggs, and metal spikes at officers. They also employed the firing of mortar-style fireworks at the officers. People tore down fencing that surrounded Chapman Square Park and used the debris to clog and block Southwest 4th Avenue near Southwest Main Street
  • Police moved in and clear the metal spikes and debris from the streets to allow firefighters entrance to work on the newly lit fires. A subset of the crowd formed rows with the front line using umbrellas to obscure the back lines. People in the back lines started throwing debris at officers such as frozen water bottles, eggs, and metal spikes. When the fire was finally put out and firefights safely escorted out, officers deployed smoke to cover their exodus of the area.
  • Because crowds blocked the intersection of Southwest 3rd Avenue and Southwest Main Street, another group of rioters incited others to rampage through the city destroying private property and public property alike. Around 9:51 p.m. the large crowd of over 200 persons charged west towards City Hall and started smashing the windows. They then ran north along Southwest 5th Avenue breaking windows and damaging property.
  • As the crowd continued its rampage through downtown, the rioters shattered windows and damaged the properties of many businesses. The group slowly began to disperse and began fighting among themselves and light small trash fires. Various people were overheard stating that they were calling the night a huge success.

Merrick Garland, Attorney General, was asked at his Senate confirmation hearing back in February if he regarded the extremist violence in Portland as “acts of domestic extremism, domestic terrorism.”

“Well, senator, my own definition, which is about the same as the statutory definition is the use of violence or threats of violence in attempt to disrupt democratic processes,” Garland stated. “So an attack on a courthouse while in operation, trying to prevent judges from actually deciding cases that plainly is, um, domestic extremism, um, domestic terrorism.”

“An attack simply on government property at night or any other kind of circumstances is a clear crime and a serious one and should be punished,” Garland continued. “I don’t mean, I don’t know enough about the facts of the example you’re talking about, but that’s where I draw the line when it one is, both are criminal, but one is a core attack on our democratic institutions.”

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