PORTLAND -- Police had arrested 48 people by Thursday evening as protesters marked November 17 with an "N17" protest at multiple local bank locations.
TriMet MAX lines and buses were blocked and the agency warned comuters to expect significant delays.
Just before 4:30, police used pepper spray on several protesters - the first use of that agent since protests began on October 6 - after a protracted standoff with protesters at the Chase Bank at 6th and Yamhill near Pioneer Square.Video: Pepper spray used
The conflict began when about a dozen protesters filled the revolving doors leading into the bank. A large group of mounted police responded and blocked access to the bank.After a large number of protesters gathered, spilling into the streets, police used a PA to announce that the street would be reopened and needed to be cleared.
Shortly after, the pepper spray was used and several protesters could be seen washing their eyes afterwards.
Earlier in the afternoon, about 10 protesters were arrested at the Wells Fargo Bank on SW 5th Avenue. Police in riot gear took up positions inside the bank branch and arrested protesters who gained access to the inside of the bank.
The Bank of America branch at 122 and SE Stark was briefly chained closed . A man was reported fleeing the scene, and firemen responded with bolt cutters and cut the lock free.
A Day of Protest
Protests began at the Steel Bridge early Thursday, which police closed to traffic. About 20 protesters were arrested between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. before the group moved to Waterfront Park for a 10 a.m. rally. After a riverfront rally Thursday morning in support of public spending to create jobs repairing infrastructure such as bridges, a crowd numbering in the hundreds streamed downtown.
At the banks, protesters called for a moratorium in Multnomah County on mortgage foreclosures.
After the arrests, the crowd splintered and marched outside offices of other banks.
Protesters moved on from there and blocked SW 5th Avenue for a short time, where a shoving match started betweeen protesters and police.
The group of several hundred protesters had started the "N17" (November 17) march from Waterfront park around 11 a.m., with the goal of stopping "business as usual at the banking institutions."
Traffic was tied up downtown through the lunch hour.
A large number of protesters made their way through the transit mall and elsewhere downtown, but Lt. Robert King said Thursday morning they were mostly staying on sidewalks.
Police had warned Portland residents that similar protests in other cities recently have included large groups entering and causing disruptions, protesters chaining themselves to structures, barring the doors and in some cases vandalism.
Police closed the Steel Bridge early Thursday morning to ensure mass transit wasn't affected by a group of protesters who gathered there, according to spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson.
N17 spokesman David Osborn said Thursday's protests were just a first step.
“Our movement will continue to grow and evolve as we reclaim our economy and recreate our democracy,” he said.
"Were very concerned about the tone about the destructive nature," said Linda Navarro with the Oregon Bankers Association. "I mean, some of the acts that are being promoted are criminal in nature."
The City of Portland's Local 483 from the Bureau of Transportation joined the morning protest to oppose a proposed $16.2 million in cuts to the Bureau’s ongoing budget.