Federal officers again dispersed protesters gathered overnight in downtown Portland, deploying tear gas and less-lethal munitions.
Demonstrators have also moved to establish an encampment across the street from the federal courthouse, setting up in Lownsdale Square. The developments come as nightly Black Lives Matter protests continued Tuesday in Portland for the seventh straight week.
Between 200 and 250 people marched Tuesday from Revolution Hall across the Morrison Bridge, stopping at City Hall and making their way to Pioneer Courthouse Square. Dozens later joined protesters gathered near the Multnomah County Justice Center — a hub for nightly protests.
Demonstrators established barricades in the street nearby, using materials including industrial kitchen appliances, road blockades, and flashing traffic signs, according to Portland police.
— PNW Youth Liberation Front (@PNWYLF) July 15, 2020
Portland police removed some of a barricade at Third Avenue and Salmon Street early Wednesday, but demonstrators returned and officers left.
Portland police said at 2:45 a.m. that their officers did not use tear gas, crowd control munitions or force on demonstrators.
But later in Wednesday’s early-morning hours, federal officers appear to have used tear gas and less-lethal munitions to disperse the crowd.
Employees of KOIN-TV, whose newsroom is down the street from the Justice Center and federal courthouse, reportedly saw tear gas being deployed.
Livestream video footage captured officers in camouflage uniforms firing the munitions. Gas or smoke could be seen in the street at many points in the lengthy video stream.
The footage shows the officers in camouflage breaking down a road barricade established by protesters near the Justice Center and federal courthouse. Demonstrators appeared to eventually disperse.
Uniformed Portland police officers did not appear to be involved in the dispersal. The specific reasons why federal officers were breaking up the crowd weren’t immediately clear.
The dispersal came amid ongoing scrutiny of federal involvement in policing protests in downtown Portland, where courts have restricted local police — but not federal agents — from using crowd control munitions against nonviolent protesters.
Members of Oregon’s congressional delegation on Tuesday demanded to know more about the federal government’s response to protests that have roiled Portland nightly for nearly two months.
They said in a letter to top federal law enforcement officials that they are especially concerned that the U.S. Marshals Service and other federal agents working the protests are taking direction from federal officials outside of Oregon.
“Their presence and lack of coordination raises urgent concerns about how those engaging in illegal use of force against demonstrators will be held accountable,” U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, and U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici, all Democrats, wrote in a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf.
The letter was spurred by an incident Saturday night in which a deputy U.S. Marshal fired across a street on a demonstrator identified as Donavan LaBella, critically wounding the man.
The incident is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has said he “remains deeply concerned” about the actions of federal law enforcement officials and that La Bella’s injuries “at the hands of a federal officer were unacceptable.”
The best thing they can do is stay inside their building, or leave Portland altogether. Our goal is to end these violent demonstrations quickly and safely. And in the meantime, I asked him to clean up the graffiti on local federal facilities.
— Mayor Ted Wheeler (@tedwheeler) July 14, 2020
Wheeler said that while he doesn’t want federal law enforcement officials to complicate already tense nightly protests, he lacks the authority to tell them to stay away.
President Donald Trump, meanwhile, has praised federal authorities in Portland for doing “a great job.”
KATU-TV reports roughly a dozen demonstrators remained in an encampment at Lownsdale Square, which is across the street from the federal courthouse, at 5 a.m. Wednesday.
The encampment is called the Chinook Land Autonomous Territory, according to the news station.
Some of the items thrown at officers include paint, ball bearings, and glass bottles, which are all criminal acts. pic.twitter.com/9ghKqB8urT
— Portland Police (@PortlandPolice) July 14, 2020
— Jim Ryan
Noelle Crombie of The Oregonian/OregonLive contributed to this report.
(c)2020 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)
Visit The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.) at www.oregonian.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.