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Riot declared after protesters set fire inside Multnomah Building

After breaking the window of a first-floor office, some members of the crowd sprayed lighter fluid inside and threw in a large pile of burning material.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland police declared a riot and made two arrests Tuesday night after people broke the window of a first-floor office of the Multnomah Building, sprayed lighter fluid inside and threw a large pile of burning material inside the building, starting a fire large enough that it set off the fire alarm and sprinkler system inside the building.

County officials held a press conference Wednesday morning to discuss the riot and fire. Watch it here

Other members of the group vandalized the county building, threw rocks at windows and doors and set small fires outside.

Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese condemned the actions in a statement released to the media.

"The unprovoked actions by those who engaged in criminal behavior is reprehensible," Reese said. "It is simply violence and serves no legitimate purpose. It does nothing to solve the issues our community faces."

Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury also released a statement urging the community to work with the county to achieve change.

"This is the heart of our County, where people in our community come to get married, get their passports and celebrate their cultural traditions and diversity," Kafoury said, referring to the county building. "I acknowledge that there is grave injustice in our world and there is a violent and tragic history of oppression in our County. I am committed to transformational change. And I ask the community to work with us."

Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt also released a statement, calling the actions "violent and intentional criminal behavior."

Read the entire text of the statements from Kafoury and Schmidt at the end of this article

"I continue to condemn this violence," Schmidt said. "As Sheriff Reese said, it has no legitimate purpose. This destructive and illegal behavior needs to stop."

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After the fire was set and police declared a riot Tuesday night, officers used some crowd control munitions but no tear gas to clear the crowd. Some officers used batons against some in the crowd and pushed them to the ground.

Two people were arrested. Portland police released the following arrest information:

  • Jesse Hawk, 23, riot, interfering with a peace officer, resisting arrest, two charges of unlawful use of a weapon, two charges of assaulting a public safety officer, two charges of harassment, second-degree disorderly conduct, attempted escape
  • Peter Curtis, 40, first-degree criminal mischief, reckless endangering

People gathered Tuesday night at Colonel Summers Park in Southeast Portland. A post on social media said the group would be rallying for Black Lives Matter and the total abolition of the prison system and police force. 

Around 9:45 p.m., the group left the park and began marching west down Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard, Beth Nakamura tweeted. The group marched to the Multnomah Building on Southeast Hawthorne and Southeast Grand which houses several Multnomah County offices.

Near the building, on the street, the contents of a dumpster were lit on fire, Garrison Davis tweeted. He also reported that some paper was lit on fire in front of the doors to the building and there was some damage to a window.

Some people in the crowd took rocks and threw them through the windows at the Multnomah Building. On Twitter, the user 'Soundtrack to the End' captured video of windows shattering.

Flaming debris was thrown through the broken window and started a fire in one of the offices, according to video from Garrison Davis.

According to a press release from Portland police, members of the group also sprayed lighter fluid inside of the building before the large pile of burning debris was throw inside. Police said the fire was large enough that it set off fire alarms and the sprinkler system inside the building.

At 10:30 p.m., Portland police declared the gathering outside the building a riot and asked everyone to leave the area immediately.

As of 11 p.m., police had pushed the group away from the building and the fire had been put out. Officers used batons against some in the crowd and pushed them to the ground. Portland police said members of the group threw objects at officers and one officer suffered a minor injury.

By 12:25 a.m., the crowd marched back to Colonel Sumners Park and left the area.

Portland police said they used some crowd control munitions to disperse the crowd but did not use tear gas.

This is the 12th straight week that demonstrators have taken to the streets in Portland following the killing of George Floyd.

Full statement from Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury:

Tonight, the Multnomah County Building, the headquarters for the largest safety net provider in Oregon, was vandalized and set on fire by a small group of protestors.

This is the heart of our County, where people in our community come to get married, get their passports, and celebrate their cultural traditions and diversity.

A small group set fire to the Office of Community Involvement, a space dedicated to engaging community members who have been marginalized by the traditional political process.

The lobby where the first same-sex marriage in Oregon took place, and where millions of pieces of personal protective equipment are being distributed to help our community battle COVID-19, was damaged.

I acknowledge that there is grave injustice in our world and there is a violent and tragic history of oppression in our County. I am committed to transformational change.

I ask the community to work with us: support the critical work we do every day leading the public health response to COVID-19, providing thousands of meals to families in need, answering mental health crisis calls and serving those experiencing domestic violence.

In such a difficult, uncertain time, our community needs all of us to work together.

Full statement from Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt:

The violent and intentional criminal behavior that occurred at the Multnomah Building is the antithesis to the work Multnomah County and its dedicated and diverse staff is doing daily to uplift, support and improve our community.

The people working in the Multnomah Building serve a critical mission to the county’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to adversely impact marginalized communities.

Breaking out windows, setting fires and committing assaults will not bring the much needed reform we need.

I join Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese and others in working with our community to bring about transformational change.

I continue to condemn this violence. As Sheriff Reese said, it has no legitimate purpose. This destructive and illegal behavior needs to stop.

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WATCH: Videos of protests in Portland