PORTLAND, Ore. — After several nights of demonstrations ending with little conflict, police declared a civil disturbance outside the Multnomah County Justice Center Friday night and used force to get hundreds of the remaining protesters to leave downtown Portland.
Police on Saturday morning announced 20 people were arrested.
Friday was the eighth night of large protests in Portland over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died while in Minneapolis police custody on Memorial Day. The white officer who kneeled on Floyd's neck for nine minutes has been charged with second-degree murder.
As has been the case of most previous nights, following hours of peaceful protest, many demonstrators ended up outside the Justice Center, which is fenced off and has been the site of past clashes between police and demonstrators.
Shortly after 11 p.m., Portland police declared the crowd an unlawful assembly. Police and the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office said protesters threw projectiles, fireworks and participated in criminal activity.
"Tonight's events revealed an escalation in focus, violence, and weaponry directed at public safety officials. Lives were at risk; our officers deserve better than to be pelted with incendiary devices, batteries, glass bottles, sling shot projectiles, and bricks to name a few," said Portland Police Chief Jami Resch. "Fortunately, demonstrators, media, and public safety officers have not experienced serious physical injuries in the past week, despite the dangerous life safety risks we have witnessed."
Tear gas, flash bangs and smoke were deployed to try and disperse the crowd. Despite police attempts, hundreds remained in the area into the early morning hours of Saturday.
There has been growing support to ban the use of tear gas. Hours earlier in the evening, near the Justice Center, videos from Alex Zielinski with the Portland Mercury and The Oregonian showed Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler telling demonstrators he supports a tear gas ban for 30 days, like the city of Seattle implemented, and that his staff would be making an announcement Saturday about the issue. A lawsuit has been filed by protesters and the group Don't Shoot Portland against the city for police's use of tear gas during the previous days of demonstrations.
Also on Friday, Wheeler said he directed police to stop using sonic warning tones on protesters.
The turning point came after another night of thousands of people peacefully uniting together to protest the death of George Floyd and call for changes to end systemic racism. The largest group of the night met outside Revolution Hall in Southeast Portland and marched to Waterfront Park in downtown across the Hawthorne Bridge.
Several people spoke at the park, including Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, the first black woman on Portland's City Council. After the gathering, police said many people headed back across the bridge to the city's eastside and went home for the night.
Protests weren't just in the downtown area Friday night. Peaceful groups gathered in Lake Oswego to march in solidarity with protesters across the country who are protesting the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
Senior citizens gathered in Northeast Portland, as well, to have their own small and socially distant gathering. They showed their support without joining a large crowd amid the coronavirus pandemic, which could be potentially dangerous to the elderly or anyone with a compromised immune system.
And on Southeast Division Street, members of the David Douglas community were rallying in support as well.
Several nights of demonstration, prior to Friday, had resulted in little conflict, while sending a clear message that there needs to be change to prevent continued racial injustice.
One of those changes, to the approval of some protesters, was Portland Public Schools discontinuing the regular presence of school resource officers from the Portland Police Bureau.