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Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler speaks about ongoing protests, says curfew is unnecessary

Both the mayor and police chief recognized and thanked thousands of peaceful protesters.
Credit: KGW

PORTLAND, Ore. — For the past several nights, the demonstrations in Portland over the killing of George Floyd have followed a similar pattern: A peaceful protest with thousands of people in attendance lasts for hours, while a smaller, separate group clashes with police.

Wheeler said there will be no citywide curfew in place Wednesday. He said he believes the curfew didn't make any meaningful difference and that in some cases, it serves as a negative motivator.

During Wheeler's press conference, he spoke at length about ways Portland must move forward to improve the treatment of the black community.

"I have to hear what the community demands, not me telling the community what is best for them. That's not how it works," Wheeler said.

Wheeler said he and the city will push for changes to state law this summer. He mentioned a proposed law he supports that will hold police officers accountable who are disciplined for unlawful behavior.

Markisha Smith, with the Office of Equity and Human Rights, also spoke during the press conference.

"Racism still exists. It hasn't been quarantined. It simply shows up in overt and covert ways," Smith said. "We have to take what is on paper and make it happen. We can't do this alone. There must be collective acknowledgement of what the black community is going through."

Tuesday night, thousands of people peacefully marched, with one large group stopping on the Burnside Bridge as protesters lied on the ground as part of a "die-in," chanting, "I can't breathe." That group and another large group convened in Pioneer Courthouse Square as 10,000 people took part in a peaceful protest that lasted for hours.

RELATED: Hours of peaceful protests in Portland again followed by unlawful assembly

At around 9:30 p.m., a separate group clashed with officers. Police say those people set fires and threw objects at officers, including fireworks, bottles and bats. Police used tear gas and other crowd control measures to disperse that group of protesters.

"It's our duty to protect Portland, including the 10,000 people who showed up to make this city more equitable," Wheeler said during Wednesday's press conference. "Keep holding all of us accountable."

RELATED: Timeline: Police declare unlawful assembly, tell protesters to leave downtown Portland

The large, peaceful group at Pioneer Courthouse Square left around 10 p.m., but the smaller group clashing with police wasn't dispersed until about 2 a.m. Police say more than a dozen people were arrested or detained.

Portland Police Bureau Chief Jami Resch said she recognizes the peaceful protesters.

"I want to recognize the thousands of peaceful demonstrators," she said during Wednesday's press conference. "I hear your message. I know those engaging in criminal acts do not represent you."

Resch also spoke about police officers marking vehicles during Tuesday night's protest. She said for the past several days, officers have seen cars in the crowd, with people inside handing things out to protesters, including weapons.

"To increase public safety, we've deployed stop sticks and marking as a method to identify vehicles to stop at a later time," Resch said.

A video also showed a police SUV speeding through a barricade in Southwest Portland as protesters had to run to get out of the way. Police said they're "researching the circumstances surrounding this incident."

Resch addressed that video during Wednesday's press conference. "We don't know why it occurred and it's being investigated," she said.

She said the bureau is investigating multiple videos from Tuesday night's protest. Resch said every use of force by Portland police officers is documented and investigated and if the actions are outside the bounds of bureau policy, they'll be addressed.

She said police didn't engage with protesters until the small group of demonstrators marched away from the peaceful protest and targeted police officers blocks away.

"The Portland Police Bureau did not instigate the violence in our city last night," Resch said.

Resch also said it has been incorrectly reported that Portland police officers use flash-bang grenades. She said the communications team will put out information later Wednesday about the kind of crowd control munitions the Portland Police Bureau uses.

WATCH: YouTube playlist | Protest and unrest in Portland