Portland police declare illegal meeting throughout protest

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    Portland police declare unlawful assembly during protest

    The Portland Police Bureau declared an illegal gathering on Saturday evening when people gathered outside a police station in Oregon's largest city and threw bottles against officers, the police said.

    Up to this point, the federal, state and local law enforcement agencies had apparently not been present in the protests on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The demonstrations – which ended up for weeks with tear gas, fireworks on buildings, federal agents on the street, and injuries to demonstrators and officials – recently ended with chants and conversations.

    Activists and officials from Oregon urged people to focus on Black Lives Matter in the Saturday night protests in Portland, three days after the Trump administration agreed to reduce the presence of federal agents.

    On Saturday evening, groups gathered in different areas of downtown Portland to listen to the speakers and prepare to march to the Justice Center and the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse.

    One of the most popular events, "Recenter Why We Are Here – BLM" was hosted by the NAACP. Speakers included activists and Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley and Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty.

    Merkley and Hardesty discussed the policy they proposed, including cutting police funding and restricting chokeholds.

    "The next thing you have to do is vote as if your life depends on it, guess what it does," said Hardesty.

    For the first time since federal agents were present in Portland, law enforcement officials declined and demonstrators clashed noticeably on Saturday night.

    When a group of demonstrators gathered outside the courthouse, another marched to a district for the Multnomah County's sheriff's office and the Portland Police Bureau.

    Police said protesters threw glass bottles and aimed lasers at officials. Shortly before 10 p.m., the Portland police announced an illegal gathering and asked people to disperse as they could otherwise use violence or be arrested. The police have been charged several times against demonstrators in the area.

    The scene in the courthouse was different. Around 11:30 p.m. hundreds of people stopped and listened to the speakers.

    At midnight the demonstrators marched through the streets of the city center again.

    The protests on Thursday and Friday also attracted more than 1,000 people – both nights were relatively peaceful. In a press release early Saturday, the Portland Police Bureau described the crowd as subdued on Friday, saying there was no police interaction with protesters.

    During the protest on Friday, a single firework was shot at the courthouse. In recent weeks, more fireworks or tear gas canisters have been thrown into the crowd over the fence. This time, demonstrators chastised the person who shot the fireworks and pleaded to keep the demonstration peaceful.

    Relative calm before a federal court, which has come to a zero in clashes between demonstrators and federal agents, came after the U.S. government began to dismantle its armed forces under an agreement between democratic governor Kate Brown and the Trump administration.

    Portland had often seen violent demonstrations for over two months after police killed George Floyd in Minneapolis. In early July, President Donald Trump sent more federal agents to the city to protect the federal court, but local officials said their presence made matters worse.

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    Sara Cline is a corps member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit, national service program in which journalists report on topics not covered in local newsrooms.

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