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Federal officers use tear gas after fires set near courthouse in downtown Portland

The Portland NAACP organized an event downtown earlier Thursday night to “re-center the reason that demonstrators and protesters have taken to the streets.”

PORTLAND, Ore — Thousands of protesters again showed up in the area near the Multnomah County Justice Center and the federal courthouse in downtown Portland on Thursday night to protest police brutality, the presence of federal officers and systemic racism.

Around 11 p.m., after the demonstration ended, some members of the crowd launched fireworks at the federal courthouse and set fires inside the fence around the building. Federal officers warned the crowd several times before coming out of the building and using tear gas to disperse the group. Video showed federal officers take at least one person into custody.

Portland police declared an unlawful assembly around 1 a.m., after the police bureau said people continued to breach the fence, set fires and launch fireworks toward the courthouse.

The crowd cleared out around 3 a.m.

Portland’s NAACP chapter organized a Thursday night event outside the Justice Center to “re-center the reason that demonstrators and protesters have taken to the streets.” The group wants to bring back the focus of the movement to racial injustice.

Singers, speakers and advocates took to the mic to re-iterate that protesters need to refocus on Black issues.

“What is happening downtown is not a Black issue,” speaker Lakayana Drury said. “This is a battle between two White supremacist entities, the Trump administration and the local city of Portland. The Black issues exist very far from here in the Numbers, in the Ville, in Cully.”

Bringing back the focus

Posted by Portland NAACP 1120 Branch on Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Justice Center has been the site of nightly protests for the past eight weeks. More recently it is where demonstrators have clashed with federal officers sent by President Trump to protect the federal courthouse, which is just a block away from the Justice Center.

On Wednesday night, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler attended the nightly protest to listen and address questions from protesters.

When asked point-blank if he would commit to abolishing the police bureau, Wheeler said he did not support that. He also took questions on qualified immunity and the violence between the feds and protesters.

The mayor stayed downtown until after midnight and was tear-gassed by federal officers. He told the New York Times, "I'm not gonna lie, it stings, it's hard to breathe, and I can tell you with 100% honesty I saw nothing that provoked this response.”

The statement from the mayor was the same message protesters have been telling him through the duration of the nightly protests. 

Wheeler, who is also the police commissioner, told protesters earlier in the night he doesn't like the use of tear gas because of its indiscriminate impact. However, he did not address the Portland Police Bureau's use of tear gas over the past two months. After numerous nights of Portland police tear-gassing protesters, a judge restricted the bureau's use of tear gas unless someone's life or safety is at risk.

Wheeler on Thursday tweeted about his experience, saying he is committed to change.

RELATED: City of Portland demands removal of fence around federal courthouse because it blocks bike lane

RELATED: How did we get here? Portland protests show no signs of slowing down

WATCH: Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler tear-gassed by federal officers 

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