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Portland Protesters Return Their Attention To The Local Police Force


We have news today of how protests in Portland, Ore., have changed now that federal agents have backed off. Trump administration forces, who drew so much attention, have stayed off the streets lately. And now protesters have turned their attention back to their original concern - the actions of the local police force. Here's Rebecca Ellis of Oregon Public Broadcasting.

REBECCA ELLIS, BYLINE: Over the weekend, hundreds of demonstrators marched toward the headquarters of Portland's police union.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Black Lives Matter.

ELLIS: The crowd splayed into the street outside the union, drumming and chanting in support of racial justice - a familiar scene here in Portland, which has seen protests against police violence continue uninterrupted for more than 70 days. Just before midnight on Saturday, a group of about two dozen began trying to break into the union, prying the wooden paneling from the front door. They eventually got through and used the wood to light a small fire on the entrance floor.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Chanting) ...No racist police.

ELLIS: It was the second time protesters have lit a fire inside the union's headquarters in recent weeks. Portland police and Oregon state troopers, who had been out of sight until that point, moved in.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: To those near the Portland Police Association building, this has been declared a riot.

ELLIS: They used batons and flash-bangs to push the crowd of around 200 protesters away from the union. This went on for over half a mile, as protesters were pushed deep into residential neighborhoods and through commercial streets. Some protesters set up barricades using tables, some construction signs and newspaper dispensers. Terrance Moses, a black business owner in the area, drove over to help clean up.

TERRANCE MOSES: This does not have anything to do with the cause. These was Black-owned businesses. These were put together by Black-owned business and people of color. And you came down here, and you destroyed it.

ELLIS: Over by the federal courthouse downtown, it was a much calmer scene. Federal law enforcement deployed to Portland to guard federal property have largely stayed out of sight as part of a recent deal between Governor Kate Brown and the White House. Oregon State Police now guard the building. Nearly two months ago, protests started in Portland after the death of George Floyd with calls to reform the local police department. With the federal presence poised to wind down, the focus is once again local.

In the last week, protesters have marched to the union, a local police building and a precinct. The nights have regularly ended with local police using force to disperse the crowd. Krista Swan was out earlier in the week, where a small group of protesters had used a hammer to try and break the doors of the police precinct and lit a small fire outside. Police used tear gas and bull-rushing to force the crowd to leave.

KRISTA SWAN: They just, like, linebacker tackled us to the ground. I think I busted my knee, but it's fine.

ELLIS: But as acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf testified to a U.S. Senate committee last Thursday, federal officers are not ready to retreat.


CHAD WOLF: They will continue to remain until we are assured that the Hatfield federal courthouse, as well as other federal facilities in Portland, will no longer be violently attacked.

ELLIS: Federal officials have told OPB it's possible there will be a heightened federal presence in the city until the general election.

For NPR News, I'm Rebecca Ellis in Portland. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rebecca Ellis is a Kroc Fellow with NPR. She grew up in New York City and graduated from Brown University in 2018 with a Bachelor's in Urban Studies. In college, Rebecca served as a managing editor at the student newspaper, the Brown Daily Herald, and freelanced for Rhode Island's primary paper, the Providence Journal. She has spent past summers as an investigator at the Bronx Defenders, a public defender's office in the Bronx, New York, and as a reporter at the Miami Herald, filing general assignment stories and learning to scuba dive.
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