Portland police declare gathering 'a riot', order protesters to disperse

A police officer ripping a bicycle from a protester in front of the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office on Saturday in Portland, Oregon. Hundreds of protesters clashed with police following a rally in the city. President Donald Trump took a jibe at his
A police officer ripping a bicycle from a protester in front of the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office on Saturday in Portland, Oregon. Hundreds of protesters clashed with police following a rally in the city. President Donald Trump took a jibe at his political opponents, saying Democrat-run cities had become lawless and chaotic.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PORTLAND • Police officers were hit by rocks and bottles during a protest in the Oregon city of Portland, police said yesterday, hours after clashes between rival groups of demonstrators in the city's downtown area.

In a Twitter post, police said they had declared a riot for the gathering around the Penumbra Kelly Building, a city building that houses offices including the police department, late on Saturday.

"Failure to leave may subject you to arrest, citation or crowd control agents, including but not limited to tear gas and/or impact weapons," the statement added.

Earlier in the day, right-wing and left-wing groups clashed in front of the US courthouse in Portland, weeks after federal agents pulled back from the site of protests that have gripped part of the city's downtown for months.

A group of about 200 protesters, including members of the Proud Boys and families supporting the police, gathered along the courthouse sidewalk beginning at 11am. Many of them were holding American flags, while others carried assault rifles and wore tactical military gear.

Almost immediately, a similar number of Black Lives Matter protesters gathered across the street, many dressed all in black and carrying shields or paintball guns.

Within an hour, shouting turned to violence. Paintballs flew between the two sides. Bottles soared back and forth. Shoves became punches.

As protesters who were struck with pepper spray moved back, others came forward to take their place. All the while, police officers watched from a distance and chose not to intervene.

The Portland Police Bureau said in a news release that it did not declare a riot for that clash because it had limited personnel for the number of protesters and weapons present.

Demonstrations against racism and police brutality swept the United States after the death in May of Mr George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. President Donald Trump's administration last month deployed federal forces to deal with the nightly protests in Portland, where demonstrations have sometimes erupted into violence.

Last Friday, Mr Trump called Portland's demonstrations "crazy" as he said cities run by Democrats had become lawless and chaotic. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is a Democrat.

REUTERS, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2020, with the headline 'Portland police declare gathering 'a riot', order protesters to disperse'. Print Edition | Subscribe