Leaders in Portland, Oregon, held their breath and proceeded cautiously optimistic on Friday after the first nightly protest in weeks ended with no major confrontations, violence, or arrests.
The dramatic change in tone outside of a federal court, which came to zero in clashes between protesters and federal agents, came after the U.S. government began its armed forces in the liberal under an agreement between democratic governor Kate Brown and the Trump administration Dismantle city.
Soldiers from the Oregon State Police took over when agents from the US Customs and Border Protection, US Marshal Service and the Immigration and Customs Service withdrew. There was no apparent evidence of law enforcement presence at the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Court, where protests continued until early Friday.
“The world watched Portland last night. Here's what they saw: Federal troops left the city center. Local officials protected freedom of speech. And the Oregons have spoken out for peaceful, non-violent protests for Black Lives Matter, racial justice and police accountability, ”Brown said in a tweet on Friday.
Mayor Ted Wheeler was also optimistic, but warned that after more than 60 days of protest, there was a lot to do – and not just cleaning up downtown Portland.
Leaders in Oregon are pushing for a range of measures to combat systemic racism in everything from the police to housing. These proposals could be accelerated for review later this summer in a special legislative period.
The governor also announced the creation of a Racial Justice Council to advise on criminal justice reform and police accountability, health equity, economic opportunities, housing and homelessness, and environmental justice.
"The Council will examine and begin to dismantle racist policies, which have led to major differences in practically all parts of our society," Brown's office said in a statement.
The majority of the group's members will be colored people and will involve state lawmakers to support the adoption of guidelines next year.
The Portland City Council also voted this week to pass on an election measure to voters in November to establish a police review panel that is independent of any elected official or city office.
"We need time to heal. We need the time for people to return to the city center and experience the great city center that people remember only a few months ago, "said Wheeler, a Democrat." The mass demonstrations we have seen for many, many weeks, these demands have been heard. The demands were understood. "
The federal court scene contrasted sharply with the violent clashes between demonstrators and agents that President Donald Trump sent to Oregon's largest city in early July. Protests have ravaged Portland for more than two months after police killed George Floyd in Minneapolis.
And while thousands were marching and gathering peacefully, the Portland federal court has been the target of some demonstrators. A smaller number of protesters attempted to tear down a fence that was set up for protection, lighting fires at the entrance to the courthouse and throwing fireworks, torches, and bricks at the agents who were hiding inside. The agents reacted with tear gas most nights.
But the protest that started on Thursday evening saw little violence and little sign of confrontation when several thousand people gathered near the courthouse.
A handful of demonstrators aimed lights and lasers at the building, but the state forces stayed inside and did not respond. Soon after, hundreds of protesters gathered around a block from the courthouse to hear speeches without evidence of law enforcement officials. The mood remained calm until early Friday when the crowd dropped to around 500 demonstrators.
In preparation for the handover of federal agencies to state troops, the local sheriff and the Portland police met and agreed not to use tear gas, except in situations that could result in serious or fatal injuries, the mayor said.
Wheeler, who was gassed when he joined demonstrators outside the courthouse last week, added that tear gas "is really not as effective as a tactic" because protesters put on gas masks and often come back to action after a few minutes of recovery. He apologized to peaceful demonstrators exposed to tear gas used by the Portland police before federal officials arrived.
According to the agreement announced by the governor, the agents will withdraw in phases. But federal officials insisted that the agents would not leave town completely and remain on standby.
Chuck Lovell, Portland police chief, said he believed the new collaboration between local law enforcement agencies "would be seen as a victory in many ways."
"A lot of people came out to express their displeasure with people from the federal government and to get involved with crowd control with members of our community," Lovell said. "So I hope that people at many levels are satisfied with this development."
The US government arrested 94 people on Wednesday, the most recent accounting record. Since the protests began, Lovell said local police had arrested more than 400 people.
Selsky reported from Salem. Sara Cline, member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative Corps, contributed from Salem. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program where journalists report on hidden issues in local newsrooms.