Rejecting Biden’s message of unity, Portland’s self-described anarchists target a Democratic Party building

Anarchists march in Portland on Wednesday, carrying a banner opposing President Joe Biden.
(Richard Read / Los Angeles Times)

About 150 self-described anarchists dressed in black — many also wearing helmets, balaclavas and body armor — gathered in a parking lot just east of downtown Portland Wednesday afternoon for an Inauguration Day rally.

Their political views were hard to pin down.

“We are ungovernable,” read a banner laid out on the pavement.

Before the day was over, windows were shattered at the state Democratic Party headquarters, and police in riot gear were chasing demonstrators into the darkness.

Portland Police Sgt. Kevin Allen said that police “quickly identified several suspects responsible for damage and related criminal activity” and made multiple arrests.

The scene harkened back to a summer of unrest here, where protests over racial justice persisted for well over 100 days, with peaceful demonstrations giving way to nightly battles between activists bent on destruction and authorities who declared riots and fired tear gas.

Demonstrations had become less frequent recently, and it seemed possible that with President Trump out of office, the movement might subside. But when organizers sent out a call on social media for Wednesday’s rally, familiar faces were visible in the crowd.


In the past, police have often hung back until crowds became unruly. This time, a dozen police officers showed up on bicycles while the protesters were still assembling.

Teal Lindseth, a 22-year-old activist wearing a black protective vest, mask and orange ski hat, marched up to one of the officers.

“What are you doing here?” she yelled. “We have a right to assemble.”

A young man positioned himself inches from the officer’s face and swore at him repeatedly before asking: “How long are you going to be here?”

“Until my boss tells me to go,” the officer replied.

A person dressed in black stands next to a building amid broken glass
A protester smashes the door of the Democratic Party of Oregon headquarters in Portland Wednesday.
(Richard Read / Los Angeles Times)
An anarchist symbol marks the Democratic Party of Oregon headquarters in Portland Wednesday.
(Richard Read / Los Angeles Times)

The crowd surged toward the officers. The police backed off, then rode toward the crowd. One officer confiscated a pair of posts used to display a banner, apparently worried they could be used as weapons.


The crowd broke into a familiar chant: “All cops are bastards.”

The officers looked on, impassive. Then on an apparent order from a command post, they departed.

Activists milled around, seeming unsure of what to do next. Following the anarchist code, which forbids leaders, a young man speaking through a bullhorn said he he wasn’t trying to tell anyone what to do, but he advised that they begin marching.

The protesters defend the nightly taunting of police, along with vandalism and destruction of property, as a strategy to draw officers into clashes and expose them as fascists.

Aug. 24, 2020

And so they did, winding their way through streets behind a banner that said, “We don’t want Biden — we want revenge! For police murders, imperialist wars and fascist massacres.”

They also chanted “Black lives matter,” though some local leaders of the racial justice movement have said they want nothing to do with Portland’s violent protesters.

The crowd was trailed by reporters, photographers and a police cruiser that blasted warnings from a loudspeaker:

“This is the Portland Police Bureau! No permit has been issued for area roadways. Move to the sidewalk. Failure to comply with this order may subject you to citation, arrest or the use of crowd-control agents and/or impact weapons.”

Eventually the activists reached the Democratic Party of Oregon office building.

They dragged a dumpster into the middle of the street. Then several held up umbrellas to conceal the identity of a man with spray paint who began writing anti-Biden slogans and drawing anarchist symbols on windows and walls.

Another man stepped forward and smashed windows with a crowbar while fellow marchers grabbed window blinds and pulled them down.

The cruiser pulled up a block away, and the officer on the loudspeaker told the activists to stop damaging the building, threatening them with arrest. A truck carrying officers in riot gear approached, and activists began running.

Soon the street was empty, save for a passerby who shoved the dumpster back to the curb.