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Portland Sees 100th Day Of Protests For Racial Justice


With the election less than two months away, demonstrations over racial justice are leading to confrontations - sometimes violent - with police and armed right-wing groups. This is what's happened in just the past 24 hours. In Louisville, Ky., ahead of the Kentucky Derby, armed far-right militia members marched through the streets to confront Black Lives Matter supporters protesting the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor in that city. There was only a small scuffle, and heated words were exchanged. In Rochester, N.Y., yesterday, police used tear gas and pepper pellets to disperse hundreds of people gathered to protest the death there of Daniel Prude, who died after being restrained by local police in March.

And in Portland, Ore., a milestone was reached yesterday. For the 100th consecutive day, people took to the streets to protest racial injustice. Police declared a riot, launching tear gas, impact munitions and making arrests. NPR's Nathan Rott is in Portland, and he joins us now.

Good morning.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What happened last night?

ROTT: So given how high the concerns were, it was actually a pretty normal night. And I - normal being a admittedly weird word to use for a night where tear gas was fired in a residential neighborhood. But there were a lot of worries that things were going to be worse, given that two people have been shot and killed in the last week. One was a man who was shot here in Portland after sort of counter-protesting the protesters and then the other being a man that authorities believe was involved in that first shooting. He was killed by federal police in Washington on Thursday.

There was a memorial for Aaron J. Danielson, the counter-protester I mentioned. He's a supporter of the right-wing group Patriot Prayer. With those extra people here, there were concerns that last night's protests were going to be a lot more intense.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But that turned out not to be the case. What happened?

ROTT: Well, you know, you had hundreds of protesters gather again, but I did not see any counter-protesters there at the vigil we were at earlier. People were saying, you know, let's be peaceful. The confrontations that I saw were mostly between protesters and the Portland police, which had declared the gathering a riot not long after it started at 9 p.m.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So how are people in the community holding up after so many nights of tensions?

ROTT: You know, I think it's important to remember that Portland's a really big place. And...


ROTT: ...Given how the situation here is being portrayed by certain people, you know, the president of the United States among them - these protests are only happening in small parts of the city. That said, you know, some of the people I've talked to last night said that they were just kind of tired. One was Ramone Mills (ph). And I asked him what he thought about the hundred days of protest, and here's what he said.

RAMONE MILLS: I think it's been maybe 45 days of protests, 50 days of riots. Do I see it end anytime soon? No.

ROTT: So Mills - you can hear there - was just frustrated because he supports Black Lives Matter, but he thinks what's happening in parts of Portland is not productive. And as a Black man who says he's been profiled and abused by police, he thinks there needs to be police reform, but he just does not think that this is the way to do it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So with this backdrop, do you think that these protests are going to continue if people in the community feel like maybe they've gone on too long?

ROTT: You know, I think, you know, people are going to be frustrated, but there's no reason that these protests wouldn't keep going. Today, there are more protests planned. Tomorrow, on Labor Day, there's expected to be another caravan of Trump supporters that are coming to Portland. Remember, it was a similar setting that led to that fatal shooting last week. So I think these protests are going to continue well into the future, and hopefully they don't become as violent as some of them have become in the last week.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR's Nathan Rott.

Thank you so much, Nate.

ROTT: Thank you, Lulu. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Nathan Rott is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where he focuses on environment issues and the American West.
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