Portland protests spark renewed rallies in US cities

45 arrested after intense clashes in Seattle leave trail of damage; marches in Austin, LA

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Police said a protest turned into a riot in Seattle, Washington, on Saturday, and demonstrators nationwide took to the streets in solidarity with racial justice activists opposed to federal intervention in their cities.
A demonstrator kneeling in front of police officers during protests in Seattle on Saturday. The police declared the situation a riot after some protesters set fire to buildings at the site of a future youth detention centre, smashed windows of nearby businesses, and blew a 20cm hole through the wall of a police precinct building. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SEATTLE • Weeks of violent clashes between federal agents and protesters in Portland, Oregon, galvanised thousands of people to march through the streets of American cities on Saturday, injecting new life into protests that had largely waned in recent weeks.

One of the most intense protests was in Seattle, where a day of clashes left a trail of broken windows, slashed tyres and burning trailers.

At least 45 protesters had been arrested by the early evening, and both protesters and police officers were injured.

Carrying signs saying "Feds Go Home" and shouting chants of "No justice, no peace", some among the crowd of about 5,000 protesters stopped at the site of a future youth detention centre and lit buildings there on fire.

Some smashed windows of nearby businesses, ignited a fire in a coffee shop and blew a 20cm hole through the wall of the Seattle Police Department's East Precinct building, the police said.

"At this point, we declared the event to be a riot, and several orders to disperse were given," Seattle police chief Carmen Best said at a news conference.

The police confronted the crowd, deploying flash grenades and pepper spray before taking people into custody.

In Austin, Texas, the police said one man was shot and killed just before 10pm during a protest in the city's downtown.

In Los Angeles, protesters clashed with officers in front of the federal courthouse downtown. Videos showed people smashing windows and lobbing water bottles at officers after protesters said the police fired projectiles at them.

The federal courthouse in Portland has been the scene of nightly, chaotic demonstrations for weeks, which looked likely to continue on Saturday as thousands participated in marches around the city, in the 58th consecutive day of protests there.

Nurses in scrubs joined an organised group of mothers in helmets and fathers in hard hats beside the fence of a federal courthouse where federal agents - a deployment that has been a key focus of the recent demonstrations - have been assembled.

Protesters in several cities said the smoke-filled videos of federal agents firing tear gas and shoving protesters in Portland had brought them to the streets on Saturday.

Ms Bipasha Mukherjee, 52, from Kirkland, Washington state, said she had been protesting on the streets since May and that it was worrisome to her to see such aggressive tactics used by the police.

"This is not the country I immigrated to," said Ms Mukherjee, who arrived from India more than 30 years ago. "It feels like we are rapidly becoming a fascist state and a police state."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 27, 2020, with the headline Portland protests spark renewed rallies in US cities. Subscribe