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Live Updates: Portland’s June 8 Protests Against Police Violence

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by Alex Zielinski

A scene from Sunday evenings protest. Featuring: The Fence.

A scene from Sunday evening’s protest. Featuring: The Fence. Robert Ham

Update, 12:34 am:

As it seems like, for the first night in over a week, this evening’s demonstration is going to end peacefully, we are letting our reporters get out of the rain and get some rest. A healthy number of protesters are still there—around 200, according to occasional Mercury contributor Sergio Olmos—and doing a fine job keeping their spirits up in spite of the wet weather and dropping temperatures. Still hanging in there after about five hours of marching and protesting? Mayoral candidate Sarah Iannarone.

Before we pull the plug on this live blog, here’s a recap of the evening’s events:

The big news of the night was a march, organized by Black leaders, that once again began at Revolution Hall. The difference was that, for the first time, it ended in the Alberta district, a formerly African American neighborhood that has since been heavily gentrified. And, to get there, the marchers took over I-84, blocking traffic in both directions. It was almost entirely without incident, apart from one truck driver who veered around the stopped traffic and attempted to get past the march with force. Reports are that the driver was brandishing a weapon, but we’ve yet to confirm that. We have requested more information from the PPB and will update you as soon as we can.

Beyond that, as you’ll read below, the new police chief’s first night on the job was a calm one. Hundreds of protesters still descended upon Chapman Square to chant and snack and drum and smack a beach ball around in front of the Justice Center. Water bottles and the occasional firework (not to mention at least one beach ball) were thrown over The Fence, and, according to some folks there, the police responded with pepper ball shot. Elsewhere, in front of the nearby US District Court, some protesters cut through a section of The Fence.

That was pretty much the only drama we’ve seen tonight as it appears the Portland Police were willing to let the rally die out naturally (with a little help from the rain and cold) rather than force an ending to it with crowd control munitions and batons. Then again, at least one person we follow on Twitter says that the officers on hand might be ready to engage with the protesters. We’ll check back again in the morning and update you.

That’s a wrap for us here at Mercury HQ. Thanks for following along with us. Unless the news cycle spins around to smack us in the face with some truly surprising developments, we’ll be back again tomorrow night for another round of live blogging. Sleep well, babies.

Update, 11:47 pm:

A hearty band of protesters are still holding court in Chapman Square and keeping up a steady chant of “Police! Disband!” in spite of the rain and diminished numbers. The rumor is, according to our own Steve Humphrey, that if they don’t get forced out of the area, they’re planning on being there all night.

It’s pretty telling though that the other major news outlets that usually run nonstop livestreams of the protests have packed up their cameras and gone home for the night. Then again, it’s about this time that we’ve begun to see the police organize and get ready to bring an end to the demonstration with force. Stay tuned.

Update, 11:04 pm:

I’m hearing reports of flash bangs and possibly pepper balls being shot into the crowd from the police. In response, demonstrators are chucking empty water bottles and other objects over The Fence. It looks like some people brought fence cutters to tonight’s event, and have peeled back a piece of The Fence.

And, just like that, it’s time for the 11 pm shields:

Update, 10:28 pm:

Things have been a little slow at the Justice Center, aside from the standard pizza-eating, chanting in the rain, and Tuck potentially starting some shit:

While we wait for something—or maybe nothing—to happen, here’s a spicy press release from earlier this evening sent by UniteOregon and the Portland African American Leadership Forum (PAALF). The joint statement excoriates the city for switching out (former) Chief Jami Resch for Chief Chuck Lovell, calling the decision a “cosmetic change.”

“It does not matter who serves as Chief of the Portland Police Bureau (PPB), because police are the problem,” the statement reads. “The relentless violence that Portland Police have inflicted on Black Portlanders since this city was founded cannot be wished away with a staffing change, because that violence is built into the concept of policing itself.”

Read the whole press release here.

Update, 9:40 pm:

Rumor has it that the Alberta group is planning on marching back down to Revolution Hall. It’s unclear if they plan on taking I-84 again. Tuck describes a “jaunty vibe” in downtown Portland, with no other police announcements since that first one 45 minutes ago. There’s been no shortage of inventive signs/chants:

Hear it live:

Officers are still remaining in the shadows. Unlike the past two nights, PPB has not shared a link to their own “behind-the-scenes” livestream on their Twitter account. Here’s a comprehensive update from our friend Sergio Olmos (who has yet to skip a day of protest coverage):

Update, 9pm:

The Alberta march has concluded with what looks like a street fair (remember those?) with speakers and cheers. The crowd at the Justice Center, meanwhile, is slowly growing and has the potential to turn into your college dorm lounge. There’s a drum circle, vegan snacks, and 4:20 jokes.

WHAT’S THAT? Oh, it’s the sound of the first “Stop tampering with the fence” alert of the night from PPB. The police are sending out tweets trying to explain that they just want to protect the people that work and “live” in the Justice Center—they aren’t trying to silence First Amendment rights.

Update, 8:30 pm:

No signs of police yet, save for some hiding from the rain under the Justice Center awning. Realizing how remarkable that no police showed up to the I-84 takeover—especially after seeing this not-great video.

Still unsure about the circumstances surrounding this rogue truck or if there was any firearm involved. Stay tuned. ANYWAY. Here’s your signs and snack report:

Update, 8 pm:

Reporters Steve and Tuck have landed at their respective corners of town: Steve has found the former freeway clan marching up NE 33rd to Alberta and Tuck is aglow in the blinding floodlights outside the Justice Center. Here’s their respective vibes:

Update, 7:35 pm:

So when I said the Eastside group would be heading north to Alberta, I did not expect them to TAKE THE FREEWAY THERE. Surprise! The crowd of a thousand (or more?) demonstrators merged onto Eastbound I-84 shortly after 7 pm and effectively stopped all traffic going both ways. Look at this!

Needless to say, Portland Police Bureau had no idea this was coming—and they don’t seem too thrilled about it. Oh no, has their “good” v. “bad” protester narrative been debunked?

Original post, 6 pm:

We’ve reached another evening of planned (and unplanned) demonstrations against police brutality in Portland. It’s now been two weeks since George Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, an event that spurred what can only be referred to as a global uprising against racist policing. In Portland, these nightly protests have both inspired substantive policy changes—like Mayor Ted Wheeler’s decision to dismantle the police bureau’s Student Resource Officer program—and heightened the public’s concerns around police violence—like Portland Police Bureau’s (PPB) indiscriminate use of tear gas and flash bang grenades against protesters.

Today brought another unusual twist: At an afternoon press conference, PPB Chief Jami Recsh announced her abrupt resignation and replacement by African American lieutenant Chuck Lovell. The unexpected decision was seen by some longtime Black community leaders as a sign that the city’s paying attention the needs of Black Portlanders. Others who’ve been involved in the recent protests—representing a younger generation of Black Portland leaders—have dismissed the move, accusing the city of tokenizing Lovell’s race to diffuse the movement.

At the afternoon press event, Lovell said he has no immediate plans to change the way in which PPB officers have been responding to the nightly protests. As a reminder: Portland police are still allowed to use tear gas (also called CS gas) against protesters. Tomorrow afternoon, a federal judge will decide whether a lawsuit filed Friday by Don’t Shoot Portland warrants the temporary ban of tear gas use by PPB.

As always, the Mercury‘s trusty editorial team will be covering tonight’s demonstrations. So far, an activist group has planned a march from Revolution Hall on SE Stark and 13th all the way up to NE Alberta and 15th, crossroads in one of Portland’s former African American neighborhoods. We’re also expecting demonstrators to return to Chapman Square in Downtown Portland to protest outside of the Multnomah County Justice Center—or, more specifically, at The Fence.

This evening, we’ll be following Editor-in-Chief Steve Humphrey and freelance reporter Tuck Woodstock as they cover these dynamic protests on the ground—and frequently updating this blog with their observations. Stay tuned.

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