How did we get here? Portland protests continue into eighth week
Here's a look back at the timeline of Portland protests in the months following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died while in police custody in Minnesota.
There have been protests in the streets of Portland for more than 50 days, as people march to fight systemic racism and police violence. The demonstrations began as a response to the killing of George Floyd, a black man who died while in a Minneapolis police officer's custody.
The protests in Portland started as mostly nonviolent vigils and rallies, with thousands gathering to honor Floyd and other black men and women killed by police officers nationwide and to call for a stop to police violence against people of color.
But since early June the protests have turned violent several times, with protesters clashing with police officers and federal agents.
Here's a look back at the timeline of Portland protests in the months following George Floyd's death.
Monday, May 25:
On Memorial Day, George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, when a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Floyd was accused of using a $20 counterfeit bill and he died as police were taking him into custody.
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, allegedly kept his left knee on Floyd's neck while Floyd was pinned to the ground, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.
During that time, Floyd said "I can't breathe" multiple times and repeatedly said "Mama" and "please," as well. Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd's neck for nearly three minutes even after officers discovered Floyd was non-responsive.
Floyd's death set off major protests across the country that soon reached Portland.
Friday, May 29:
Four days after George Floyd's death, high-profile protests began in Portland.
It started Friday afternoon with a peaceful gathering organized by the NAACP and then a vigil in the evening at North Portland's Peninsula Park.
The vigil was organized by activist group PNW Youth Liberation Front. Hundreds of people, spread out across the park, showed up to honor Floyd and listen to speakers.
The event turned quickly, however, as some demonstrators broke away from the group and started vandalizing businesses along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The rioters and looters shattered store windows and tagged buildings with graffiti that police say stretched for 20 blocks.
At around 10 p.m., a protester fired a shot at an occupied car on Northeast 7th Avenue and Morris Street. A person inside the car was grazed by a bullet and treated at a local hospital.
The march reached downtown, where demonstrators broke into and started a fire inside the Multnomah County Justice Center, home to hundreds of inmates. No inmates were injured.
Other protesters set fires throughout downtown, torching dumpsters, trash cans, cars and pallets. Police deemed the demonstration a riot and used tear gas, flash-bang grenades and other uses of force to disperse protesters.
In the days and weeks following, large-scale marches took place through different neighborhoods in Portland and across the downtown bridges.
This cycle continued, with peaceful marches during the day and smaller groups violently clashing with police outside of the Justice Center downtown at night.
RELATED: Portland protests: Nonviolent gatherings and unlawful assemblies in the wake of George Floyd's death
Tuesday, June 9:
By this point, Portland police had received a lot of criticism for their tactics during protests, including the use of tear gas on protesters. Former Portland Police Chief Jamie Resch stepped down on June 8 and named Chuck Lovell the new chief.
On June 9, U.S. District Judge Marco A. Hernandez barred the Portland Police Bureau from using tear gas, or CS gas, on protesters for 14 days except for circumstances in which someone’s life or safety is at risk.
"This includes the lives and safety of those housed at the Justice Center," Hernandez wrote. "Tear gas shall not be used to disperse crowds where there is no or little risk of injury."
The ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed the previous week by two protesters and the nonprofit Don’t Shoot Portland, seeking a ban on police use of tear gas.
After the ruling, Portland police continued to spray tear gas during the nightly protests, saying they were dealing with safety threats.
Wednesday, June 17:
The Portland City Council passed the 2020-21 budget, which included plans to cut at least $15 million from the police bureau, eliminating 84 positions. This came in response to protesters' demands to defund the police.
Before the high-profile killing of George Floyd in police custody, and the widespread unrest that followed, the bureau was scheduled to get a $3 million increase in funds.
About a week later, lawmakers in Salem passed a group of six police reform bills, related to use of force and accountability. The bills passed included:
- House Bill 4201, originally intended to turn police shooting investigations over to the Oregon Department of Justice, establishes a Joint Committee on Transparent Policing and Use of Force Reform. That committee, made up of lawmakers and community members, is expected to make recommendations for new legislation by the end of the year.
- House Bill 4203 bans the use of chokeholds, except when an officer decides deadly force is warranted. It’s worth noting, multiple law enforcement agencies, including the Portland Police Bureau, have already banned the tactic.
- House Bill 4205 establishes a “duty to intervene," requiring officers take action to prevent or report misconduct by a fellow officer.
- House Bill 4207 requires the state to maintain public records on police discipline. Agencies must then check that database before hiring an officer.
- House Bill 4208 bans tear gas, unless police declare a riot and announce they intend to use it, giving people time to disperse.
- Senate Bill 1604 makes it more difficult for arbitrators to overturn police disciplinary findings.
Friday, June 26:
In late June, the Department of Homeland Security deployed federal officers in tactical gear from around the country to protect federal property and monuments in Portland and several other cities.
Read: Executive Order on Protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues and Combating Recent Criminal Violence
As of early July, four federal law enforcement agencies were rotating officers through Portland, including U.S. Marshals, Federal Protective Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Homeland Security Investigations. The U.S. Marshals Service is the lead agency.
The agencies are backed by President Donald Trump, who claimed, "Portland was totally out of control," and that the local officers could not handle the demonstrations on their own.
It’s not clear how many federal officers are currently in Portland to help with protests. In addition to uniformed law enforcement, court records indicate plain-clothed federal agents have also been working the crowd.
Saturday, July 11:
A Portland protester was badly hurt after being shot in the head with a crowd-control weapon. The weapon was fired by a federal agent stationed outside the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse.
A spokesperson at Legacy Emanuel Hospital said the next day that the man, 26-year-old Donavan LaBella, was in serious condition.
Video on social media from Tomas Morales IV shows LaBella was standing across the street from the federal courthouse when the incident happened. He had his arms raised above his head and was holding what looks like a large black speaker.
The video shows a federal officer throwing a canister that lands near the man. He first tries to kick it away, then picks up the canister and tosses it back toward the courthouse.
WARNING: The following video includes disturbing images of violence and injury.
He then raises the speaker above his head again, with both hands. He is wounded shortly afterward. You can hear the sound of the shot on video, and LaBella immediately falls to the ground.
Other protesters surround the man and he is carried away from the area, another video shows. He was bleeding heavily from the head, and a significant amount of blood could be seen on the sidewalk after he was carried away.
This violent incident sparked a national conversation around the protests in Portland, garnering attention from news outlets around the country.
Many local elected leaders condemned the tactics of the federal agents, with some calling on them to leave the city.
Mayor Ted Wheeler, in a statement, said the U.S. Marshals Service will be conducting a full investigation of the incident that led to LaBella's injury. He also called on federal officers to follow directives given to Portland police regarding the use of CS gas and other crowd control munitions.
Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty said in an email that she "absolutely condemns" federal troops' presence in Portland and demands their withdrawal.
Oregon senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley also condemned federal agents' actions.
In a statement to KGW, Governor Kate Brown said, "The events of last night at the federal courthouse were the tragic and avoidable result of President Donald Trump, for weeks, continuing to push for force and violence in response to protests. The cycle of violence must end. President Trump deploying armed federal officers to Portland only serves to escalate tensions and, as we saw yesterday, will inevitably lead to unnecessary violence and confrontation."
RELATED: Mayor: Federal agent who shot Portland protester with crowd control weapon 'escalated' tensions
Friday, July 17: Subtitle here
City, state and federal leaders continue to demand that President Trump pull the federal officers out of the city.
Federal agents in green camouflage uniforms have been taking people into custody on the streets of Portland, and not on the federal property that they were sent to protect.
Oregon's U.S. senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, as well as representatives Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici, announced that they will be asking the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to investigate the federal troop occupancy in Portland.
RELATED: Oregon lawmakers demand answers from Trump administration after 'intolerable' federal response in Portland
The lawmakers said the request for investigations came after federal agents shot peaceful protester Donovan LaBella in the head, causing serious injury and hospitalization. It also follows reports and video recordings of unmarked federal agents grabbing protesters and taking them to unmarked minivans.
Gov. Kate Brown said that the president is failing to lead the nation and that sending federal troops to Portland was a blatant abuse of power.
“It’s all about scoring political points and of course a photo opportunity,” she said.
RELATED: 'It’s all about scoring political points' | Gov. Brown, Oregon officials decry arrests by federal agents in Portland
Mayor Ted Wheeler called the federal occupancy an attack on our democracy.
Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty held a candlelight vigil in support of protesters downtown.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representative Earl Blumenauer issued a joint statement regarding the Trump Administration's "violent tactics used against protesters in Portland."
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against federal agencies that sent officers into Portland.
The lawsuit seeks to block the federal law enforcement officers from dispersing, arresting, threatening to arrest or using physical force against journalists or legal observers.
RELATED: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Blumenauer release joint statement on federal violence against protesters
After more than seven weeks, the protests in Portland show no sign of ending anytime soon. Daily marches and rallies are scheduled around the city, along with the nightly gathering outside the Justice Center downtown.
On Monday, July 20, the steel fence surrounding the Federal Courthouse was dismantled, stacked and trucked away. Government officials had originally said the barrier would de-escalate the tension with demonstrators, but it did just the opposite.
Protesters taking part in both the nonviolent demonstrations and the more destructive ones want reforms in the system set up to protect and serve, including defunding police departments.
"I am encouraging them to continue until the message has been driven home," said NAACP Portland Chapter President Rev. E.D. Mondaine. "We’ve got to be a consistent force, an ever-ready and present voice that says, ‘We, as the people, are demanding change.’
"Thank god for millennials who are stepping up to the plate and saying, 'Damn it, we're going see this happen.'"
Changes are taking place in Portland and across the country, but a shift in law enforcement as a whole won’t happen overnight. Rev. Mondaine said it will take a persistent push and swift change of laws, policies and procedures to turn things around.
How will protesters know when their message is actually, finally being heard?
Rev. Mondaine said they'll know when state and national lawmakers and politicians, including President Donald Trump and his administration, start speaking a different language.
"You're going to see that, I guarantee you," Mondaine said. "It’s reaching the ears of our lawmakers that sit in Congress. They're beginning to listen."
Portland city commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, a longtime police critic, wrote on Twitter that Mayor Ted Wheeler should turn the Portland Police Bureau over to her.
Portland mayors historically have kept control of the police themselves, and Mayor Wheeler told Hardesty, "no."
On Monday, Mayor Wheeler joined mayors from around the country taking a stand against federal intervention in their cities, calling for the removal of federal agents and a congressional investigation of their tactics.
Conflicts between protesters and police and federal agents continue, and KGW will continue to follow any updates. Read all of our protest coverage here.