Overnight riots in Portland: Tear-gas, violent confrontation with police outside federal courthouse

Riots exploded once again in downtown Portland on Thursday, resulting in clashes with police who deployed tear gas and smoke bombs to fight back against Antifa protesters outside a boarded-up federal courthouse.

Dozens of demonstrators set fires, smashed windows, and burned American flags outside the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse until police forced them to flee. The crowd would later return to break more windows and set another fire, The Oregonian reported. Any windows in the courthouse that weren’t already broken, were taken out in the riot. Courthouse walls were spray-painted with graffiti as well.

Earlier on Thursday, a mob gathered to protest proposed plans to replace and expand an oil pipeline that stretches between Superior, WI, and Alberta, Canada. Protesters carried a large banner proclaiming: “Protect the land, end America.” Others carried signs calling for the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and they decried police violence. And some protesters asserted that the protest and riot on Thursday were in response to the beginning of the Derek Chauvin trial in the death of George Floyd.

Business owners evidently expected violence. Some of them boarded up their establishments earlier in the day as a precautionary measure. Thursday was one more instance of almost daily riots over the past year.

(Video Credit: KOIN 6)

Protesters even tried to break into a Chase bank where a security guard allegedly pointed a gun at them and told them to stop.

A large number of federal officers responded to the riot in the evening by deploying impact munitions, smoke bombs, tear gas, and flash-bang grenades. At least one person was arrested and the police made three attempts to push back the mob. Police were seen storming a park and taking up positions to protect the courthouse.

“Officers arrived and found about 30 people refusing to leave, some smoking inside, some with pets,” police said in a statement. “The situation escalated when people began damaging property, including a television and the front doors to the building.”

One protester, Darby Howard, was arrested outside the courthouse. He is said to have resisted arrest and “an officer was punched in the face.” Howard is now being charged with first-degree criminal mischief and resisting arrest.

The police gathered in the streets of downtown Portland and deployed chemical weapons and projectiles. Some of their pepper balls and weapons seemed to malfunction when used. Bystanders claimed the police were aggressive and the air was thick with smoke.

Portland police tweeted last night that they were bracing for more unrest over the weekend. “We are aware of events planned tomorrow and this weekend in which people plan to gather and demonstrate. Demonstration Liaison Officers (DLOs) are available to work with community members organizing these events,” the department stated.

Portland’s federal courthouse has been the center of a number of violent protests over the last year in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

An independent journalist who was at the protest on Thursday claimed that “those who support the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement cited Portland police and Mayor Ted Wheeler’s refusal to reopen a case where a black man was shot multiple times by police.”

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