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Portland mayor says protesters are ‘attempting to commit murder’ and helping Trump’s reelection campaign

A fire near the Portland Police Assn. building
A waste receptacle is set on fire near the Portland Police Assn. building during a protest Tuesday.
(Dave Killen / The Oregonian)

Violent clashes this week between protesters and police in Portland, Ore., have ratcheted up tensions in the city days after an agreement between state and federal officials appeared to bring calm.

More demonstrators rallied Thursday night, hours after the city’s mayor decried the unrest that has roiled Portland since George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis.

“You are not demonstrating — you are attempting to commit murder,” Mayor Ted Wheeler said Thursday in a hastily called news conference alongside Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell. Wheeler also warned that the city anticipated more “attacks on public buildings” in the immediate future, and told protesters that they were helping President Trump’s reelection effort.

“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,” the mayor said. “If you don’t want to be part of that, then don’t show up.”

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Portland police declared an unlawful assembly Thursday night outside a precinct, and protesters were ordered to leave. The police had said earlier that they believed the intent of the crowd was to vandalize and burn the precinct.

Officers worked to clear streets near the precinct of demonstrators, at times running at the crowd to push people away. Smoke canisters were also deployed, news outlets reported. Portland police said some demonstrators in the group laid down ties made of rebar in the street that caused damage to police vehicles.

Early Friday, roads near the precinct were closed, police said. “Any persons including members of the press who violate this order will be subject to arrest,” the department said in a tweet.

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The Pacific Northwest Youth Liberation Front, which had advertised Wednesday’s 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 U.S. 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.

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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 front lines as demonstrators demand an end to police funding.

Wednesday night’s activity was in a residential neighborhood six miles from the federal courthouse, at a police precinct. Police that night used tear gas for the first time since federal agents pulled back last week.


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