Protests intensified in Portland, Ore., on Saturday as thousands of people gathered outside a federal courthouse that has for weeks been the site of violent clashes between federal law enforcement and demonstrators.
The Portland Police Department declared a riot in the city early Sunday, shortly after a group of protestors toppled part of a fence outside the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse. The police said that the riot was declared in response to the “violent conduct” of people who were creating “grave risk of public alarm.”
At around 1 a.m., some demonstrators attached a chain to the fence positioned outside the courthouse and managed to pull a section of it to the pavement, the police said. Federal officers exited the courthouse and deployed multiple rounds of teargas to disperse the crowd in response, according to The Oregonian.
At one point, the police began issuing public address announcements ordering individuals to leave the area, warning that those who remained in the area risked arrest or a citation. In a statement, the department claimed people threw bottles and shot “mortar style fireworks” at officers as they attempted to clear the demonstration. Several people were arrested, police said.
Protests have persisted in Portland for 59 consecutive days in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. And Saturday’s protest included demonstrators positioning themselves outside the courthouse. About 1,000 protestors reached the courthouse by about 10 p.m. Some protestors shot fireworks over the fence, prompting federal agents to toss canisters of tear gas at the crowd, according to The Associated Press. Demonstrators also gathered outside the Portland Police Association offices and the police department’s North Precinct.
The heightening tensions came as protestors in several other cities gather in the streets in a show of solidarity with the demonstrations in Portland. Seattle police also declared a riot on Saturday after buildings were vandalized and multiple fires were set.
Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell released a video statement following another night of unrest, imploring those in Portland and other regions to support the city by avoiding violence.
“Across the country people are committing violence, supposedly in support of Portland,” Lovell said. “If you want to support Portland then stop the violence, work for peace. Portland police officers and police facilities have been threatened. Now more than ever Portland Police needs your support.”