Hundreds of people gathered outside the Multnomah County Justice Center in downtown Portland on Tuesday evening. Some individuals were wearing helmets and carrying gas masks, umbrellas and backpacks. As the crowd chanted “burn the building down,” some people lit a dumpster on fire and pushed it up against the justice center while others vandalized the building with graffiti, according to the Portland Police Bureau.
Police officers warned the crowd that the gathering was now considered an unlawful assembly and that those who continued engaging in criminal activity would be subject to arrest and use of force. Some individuals in the crowd threw frozen water bottles, glass bottles, eggs, metal spikes and mortar-style fireworks at the officers, police said.
The crowd then marched to the nearby Portland City Hall, where some individuals smashed windows. Police declared the unlawful assembly a riot at around 10 p.m. local time and ordered the crowd to disperse. But the crowd continued wandering through the downtown area, blocking traffic in the streets, breaking windows of various businesses and damaging other property, according to police.
“Slowly, as the number of people in the crowd became smaller and smaller, they began to spread out, fight among themselves and light occasional trash can fires,” the Portland Police Bureau said in a statement early Wednesday. “People within the crowd were overheard saying the night was a success.”
Officers made several “targeted arrests,” and by midnight, the crowd had dwindled down to a few dozen people, according to police. Five people, ranging in age from 21 to 30, were booked into jail on various charges, including criminal mischief, riot and arson, police said.
Tuesday marked one year since a Minneapolis police officer killed Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed Black man. A bystander filmed the white officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes as three other officers stood by while Floyd could be heard saying, “I can’t breathe.” The incident in Minnesota sparked widespread outrage, anti-racism protests and calls for police reform across the United States and around the world.
Portland became a national flashpoint in the protest movement. Demonstrations were held in the downtown area for more than 100 consecutive days last year, with many nights ending in violent clashes between protesters and authorities.
In a statement acknowledging the one year anniversary of Floyd’s death, Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell thanked those “who have come in peace to join in driving efforts to bring about positive change.”
“The Portland Police Bureau has listened to calls for reform in policing and equity across all systems,” Lovell said. “The public servants of the Portland Police Bureau look forward to making closer connections and strengthening relationships as we work together to increase safety, equity and peace in our city. We need to balance the enforcement role we have with compassion and humility and recognize our shared humanity. A journey of police reform and change is a journey we are on together and have to aid each other along the way.”