Activists and Oregon officials urged people at Saturday night’s protest in Portland to re-center the focus on Black Lives Matter, three days after the Trump administration agreed to reduce the presence of federal agents in Oregon.
The nightly protests – that for weeks had 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. Federal, state and local law enforcement have been seemingly absent from the events Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Groups gathered Saturday evening in various areas around downtown Portland to listen to speakers and prepare to march to the Justice Center and Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse.
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 Sen. Jeff Merkley and Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty.
As a couple hundred protesters began to march Saturday, some police officers could be seen on the street. Another group of protesters marched to the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office. Police warned people to stay off of the property or there would be use of force. In a news release early Saturday, the Portland Police Bureau described the crowd as subdued and said there was no police interaction with protesters.
Friday night and early Saturday more than 1,000 people showed up downtown to peacefully protest.
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.
The change in tone outside a federal courthouse that’s become ground zero in clashes between demonstrators and federal agents came after the U.S. government began drawing down its forces under a deal between Democratic Gov. 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.
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