PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — For a third consecutive night, throngs of protesters gathered in downtown Portland in a display of displeasure with the election of Donald Trump who will become the nation’s 45th president.
Police were on high-alert after Wednesday’s graffiti and vandalism, but things escalated to extremes Thursday.
A peaceful protest started in Pioneer Courthouse Square at 5 p.m. Demonstrators began to march around 6 p.m. and joined another group gathered at the waterfront.
Hundreds of marchers blocked traffic, as organizers said they would do. They took over the Hawthorne Bridge, stopping cars on the roadway and climbing railings.
An altercation on the bridge was captured by freelance journalist Crystal Contreras:
The crowd continued marching into Northeast Portland, where protesters spray painted on buildings. The group that came from downtown was set to meet up with another protest group near Lloyd Center at Holladay Park.
By 8:30 p.m. Thursday night’s events escalated and Portland police considered it a riot. Police said it was due to “extensive criminal and dangerous behavior.”
Police warned the crowd that they were subject to arrest for participation in a riot.
The crime of riot is a Class C felony.
Around 4,000 protesters joined in the riot as the night went on, police said.
Rioters were seen spraying anti-Trump messages across the city. One person smashed the glass at a TriMet bus shelter in Northeast Portland. Someone else was seen running through a Toyota car dealership lot, smashing at least 7 car windows.
Portland police said the crowd was throwing projectiles at officers around 9 p.m.
The crowd moved into the Pearl District and smashed windows at local restaurants and other businesses.
Police said rioters armed themselves with rocks from a construction site. Smoke was seen in a dumpster at NW 13th Avenue and Hoyt Street.
Officers in riot gear blocked the crowd at W Burnside Street and Broadway, telling anyone wishing to continue peacefully demonstrating to head to Pioneer Courthouse Square. Anyone who stayed could be associated with violent anarchists, police said.
Shortly after 10 p.m. police warned people around the North Park Blocks that they would be placed under arrest if they did not leave. Twenty-six people were taken into custody, police said later in the night.
The crowd that reassembled in Pioneer Courthouse Square remained peaceful.
Around 1,500 people began marching again at 10:45 p.m.
Police from multiple agencies in riot gear continued to follow the group.
Self-proclaimed peaceful protesters passed The Portland Plaza on SW 5th Avenue where a window was reportedly broken. A resident came outside and confronted the crowd while holding a gun. Some claimed he pointed it at people.
The crowd continued moving throughout downtown Portland and were once again blocked by police around 11:30 p.m. Officers used loudspeakers to tell the crowd to disperse and move east or be subject to arrest by riot-control agents.
A flash bang went off at SW 6th Avenue and Yamhill Street shortly after.
Police reportedly used other anti-riot tactics including rubber bullets to break up the crowd.
Rioters continued breaking windows and destroying property.
Mayor Charlie Hales said he supports the peaceful protest of people exercising their Constitutional rights. But, he said, “Walking onto freeways and blocking the MAX light-rail lines is dangerous for everyone involved, and it puts a heavy burden on people just trying to make it home to their families or get to work safely.”
Cleanup crews Thursday morning tried to cover graffiti on the historic Thompson Elk statue in the heart of downtown Portland left by anti-Trump protesters Wednesday night.
Vulgarities were covered by a wrap though some writing can still be vaguely seen on the base of the elk statue, on Main between SW 3rd and 4th. Portland police said they’re preparing for future protests and addressing the vandalism.
Hales said, “Vandalism and destruction of private and public property in our city cannot, and will not be tolerated. I ask everyone to look out for their fellow Portlanders–we all need to put safety first.”
Portland activist Gregory R. McKelvey, who has been one of the organizers of recent Portland protests connected with Don’t Shoot PDX, said the group is now called Portland’s Resistance. He released the following statement mid-afternoon Thursday:
“We are gathering today at Pioneer Square 5 PM. Our group does not condone violence, vandalism or destruction in any way. However, it is not our job to censor anyones activism. If we were to do that, we might as well call the police ourselves. Our job is to lead by example and that example will be peace.”
Wednesday’s protest began peacefully, but PPB Sgt. Pete Simpson said the tone changed through the night.
“As the night went on, a lot of those folks left, some other folks joined it, and certainly by, you know, 11 o’clock at night it was almost more of a street party,” Simpson said.
Authorities believe members of anarchy groups used the protest as an opportunity to break the law.
“They will show up and hide in the crowd, use it as a way to be anonymous,” Simpson said. “But they are going to be the ones doing graffiti, they are going to be the ones breaking windows.”
He added police are assessing expectations for more protests on Thursday and trying to determine if more unruly actors will be on the streets.
If police see a heavy presence early on or if they have information, Simpson said, “Our response may be very different than allowing people to just march all over and do things.”
Only one protester was arrested on Wednesday — 27-year-old Christopher Joseph Gourneau, who police said approached a bonfire at the Thompson Elk statue and threw a Molotov cocktail into the fire.
Simpson said there may be more arrests.
“The public should not confuse our lack of taking action last night with an endorsement of criminal behavior,” he said. “We will adjust accordingly, we may make arrests today or tomorrow for things we saw yesterday.