Activists and Oregon officials have urged people in Portland to re-centre the focus on Black Lives Matter after the Trump administration agreed to reduce the presence of federal agents.
The Portland Police Bureau in the US state of Oregon has declared an unlawful assembly after people gathered outside a police precinct and threw bottles towards officers, according to police.
Until that point, federal, state and local law enforcement had been seemingly absent from the protests on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
The demonstrations — that for weeks ended with tear gas, fireworks shot towards buildings, federal agents on the street and injuries to protesters and officers — have recently ended with chanting and conversations.
Activists and Oregon officials urged people at Saturday night’s protest in Portland to re-centre the focus on Black Lives Matter, three days after the Trump administration agreed to reduce the presence of federal agents.
Groups gathered in various areas around downtown Portland to listen to speakers and prepare to march to the Justice Center and Mark O Hatfield Courthouse on Saturday evening.
One of the more popular events, “Re-centering why we are here - BLM,” was hosted by the NAACP. Speakers included activists as well as Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley and Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty.
Merkley and Hardesty spoke about policies they are putting forward, including to cut police funding and restrict chokeholds.
“The next thing we need you to do is vote like your life depends on it, because guess what, it does,” Hardesty said.
As one group of protesters gathered outside the courthouse, another marched to a precinct for the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office and Portland Police Bureau.
Tensions with police
Police stated that protesters threw glass bottles and directed lasers at officers. Just before 10 pm, Portland police declared an unlawful assembly and told people to disperse or they may be subject to use of force or be arrested. Police could be seen charging, multiple times, at protesters in the area.
At the courthouse, the scene was different. Around 11:30 pm, hundreds of people remained, standing and listening to speakers.
By midnight, protesters again began to march through the streets downtown.
Thursday and Friday's protests also attracted more than 1,000 people — both nights were relatively peaceful. In a news release early on Saturday, the Portland Police Bureau described Friday's crowd as subdued and said there was no police interaction with protesters.
At one point during Friday's protest, a lone firework was shot at the courthouse. In the weeks past, the action would be met with more fireworks or teargas canisters being dropped over the fence into the crowd. This time, protesters chastised the person who shot the firework, pleading to keep the demonstration peaceful.
Federal agents in Portland
The relative calm outside a federal courthouse that’s become ground zero in clashes between demonstrators and federal agents had come after the US government began drawing down its forces under a deal between Democratic Governor Kate Brown and the Trump administration.
Portland had seen more than two months of often violent demonstrations following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. In early July, President Donald Trump sent more federal agents to the city to protect the federal courthouse, but local officials said their presence made things worse.
On Friday, Trump tweeted "Homeland Security is not leaving Portland until local police complete cleanup of Anarchists and Agitators!"
Homeland Security is not leaving Portland until local police complete cleanup of Anarchists and Agitators!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 1, 2020
The forces — whose deployment was seen by many as part of the president's law-and-order strategy for re-election and exacerbated tensions between authorities and anti-racism protesters — had been scheduled to begin their phased pullout from Portland on Thursday.
Hundreds of demonstrators — some with makeshift shields — were still on the streets of downtown Portland late Friday, without any federal law enforcement in sight.
One protester, who gave only her first name Rudi, asked, "What does clean up mean?"
"There's nothing happening that needs cleanup ... no rioting, no looting. Trump is just speaking to riot his base," the 39-year-old said.