Portland police cleared the two parks across the street from the federal courthouse in downtown early Thursday at the request of Oregon State Police, who are set to assume control of the scene of nightly protests that have roiled the city.
Around 5:30 a.m., the Portland Police Bureau said it would be clearing Chapman and Lownsdale squares, closing both city parks and the sidewalks surrounding them. Mayor Ted Wheeler said the move was part of the plan, announced Wednesday, for federal officers to leave the protection of the courthouse to state troopers.
A woman who was in the park when it was cleared said police used loudspeakers to tell people to get moving. Officers advised the people in the parks that they had 10 minutes to pack up or face arrest or non-lethal force.
“They came out in force and moved through the park,” said the woman, 34, who declined to give her name and said she is from out of town. She said some folks were up and making a brisket breakfast.
Sergio Lazo, 32, of Portland said a squad car pulled up around 5:30 a.m. and announced that the park was closed immediately. Some were awake and eating, Lazo said, others were still sleeping.
“People literally got up and started stumbling out of the park,” he said. “There was no resistance. The people just moved out.”
The parks have been the staging grounds for nightly clashes with federal officers from the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Protective Services and Customs and Border Patrol agents.
Thousands have gathered nightly at a fence erected around the Mark O. Hatfield Federal United States Courthouse, with peaceful protests followed by people setting fires, lighting fireworks and throwing rocks and other objects at the courthouse and federal officers. The officers deploy tear gas and impact munitions to disperse the crowds.
The demonstrations against racism and police violence, which were sparked by the death of George Floyd and have been taking place for more than 60 straight nights in Portland, attracted international attention after the Trump administration sent more than 100 federal officers to quell the protests, a move that only inflamed tensions and increased the numbers who gathered each night.
On Wednesday, Gov. Kate Brown announced she had reached an understanding with the administration that state troopers would take over protection of the building, paving the way for federal officers to leave town.
About 20 minutes after they announced they would be clearing the parks on Thursday, Portland police said they had safely cleared the area and that both parks were closed to the public. By 7:30 a.m., both parks were being cordoned off with police tape and park rangers were gathering tents, tarps and supplies that had been left behind. Much of the debris was being packed into trash bags and loaded onto waiting trucks. Uniformed federal officers looked on from the portico of the courthouse, still separated from the parks by the fence that had been the flashpoint at protests hours earlier.
Roughly 40 to 50 people were cleared from the area and at least one person was arrested, police said, though they did not provide any other details.
Despite the sweep early Thursday, Lazo didn’t think the closure of the parks would stop the momentum of the protests.
“People will come back. This is not stopping the movement. This is not stopping the protests,” he said. “This is not stopping anything.”
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