Portland protesters cause mayhem again, police officer hurt

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A Black Lives Matter protester burns an American flag outside the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse on Monday, July 20, 2020, in Portland, Ore. Several hundred demonstrators gathered at the courthouse where federal officers deployed teargas and other crowd control munitions. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Portland’s nightly protests turned violent again even after the city’s mayor pleaded for demonstrators to stay off the streets and a police officer hit by a rock early Friday suffered what was described as a serious injury.

The protesters who came out Thursday night clashed with officers near a police precinct station and also used metal bars to disable police vehicles, police said in a statement.

The nightly clashes this week have ratcheted up tensions in the city after an agreement was reached last week between state and federal officials for federal agents to pull back from their defense of a federal courthouse that was prevously the focus of the protesters’ rage.

The strategy initially appeared to calm down the protesters, but violent demonstrations re-emerged on the streets this week, miles away from the courthouse – marking a new phase in the nightly protests for Portland that have happened since May 25, following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Tear gas was used by Portland police on protesters Wednesday for the first time since the U.S. agents left the city. On Thursday, Mayor Ted Wheeler warned the protesters clashing with police that “you are not demonstrating, you are attempting to commit murder.”

He predicted that there would be “more attacks on public buildings” and the protests then turned violent again Thursday night, with officers lobbing smoke canisters to try to break up the demonstrations.

Officers declared one assembly unlawful, ordering protesters to leave the area around a police precinct station after police said the crowd wanted to vandalize and burn the station.

Two elderly people who tried to stop vandalism at the station were hit with paint, police said in their statement, and media images showed another person trying to prevent the protesters from starting a fire at the station.

During the mayhem, protesters hurled bottles and rocks at officers and demonstrators laid ties made of rebar on the street that caused damage to police vehicles after they ran over them, the police statement said. Several people were arrested, including one person who had a loaded handgun, the statement said.

The officer who was hurt was hit by what authorities described as a large rock. The police statement described the officer as “severely hurt” but provided no further details.

Wheeler, who was tear-gassed several weeks ago with protesters as he stood with them outside the federal courthouse, warned the demonstrators that they are now reinforcing President Donald Trump’s message that anarchists have gone wild in Portland.

“Don’t think for a moment that if you are participating in this activity, you are not being a prop for the reelection campaign of Donald Trump — because you absolutely are,” he said. “If you don’t want to be part of that, then don’t show up.”

But the Pacific Northwest Youth Liberation Front, which advertised the Wednesday rally on social media, used Twitter to announce “Round 2” of the same demonstration on Thursday night with the slogan “No cops. No prisons. Total abolition.”

The group, which described itself as a “decentralized network of autonomous youth collectives dedicated to direct action towards total liberation,” did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The clashes between thousands of protesters and U.S. agents sent by the Trump administration to guard the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse stopped after an agreement between Democratic Gov. Kate Brown and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that called for the agents to begin drawing down their presence in Portland’s downtown on July 30.

But after a brief weekend reprieve, protest activity has continued nightly in other parts of the city, with Portland police, local sheriff’s deputies and, in some cases, Oregon State Police troopers on the frontlines as demonstrators demand an end to police funding.

Thursday night’s protest was in a residential neighborhood 6 miles (over 9 kilometers) away from the federal courthouse.

Protesters gathered in the same area Wednesday night and shined lasers in officers’ eyes, disabled exterior security cameras, broke windows and used boards pulled from the building to barricade the doors and start a fire, authorities said. There were 20 sworn officers inside, as well as civilian employees, said Capt. Tony Passadore, who was the incident commander.