by Gillian Flaccus
PORTLAND, Oregon (AP) — Police and protesters in Portland, Oregon, have clashed for the second night in a row and the city’s police chief says the ongoing violence is harming the city’s image.
The high-profile clashes outside a U.S. courthouse in Portland, Oregon, have largely stopped since Democratic Gov. Kate Brown reached a deal that called for the draw down of federal agents sent by the Trump administration to protect the building.
But the turmoil on the streets has continued miles away from the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse, as demonstrators rallying to defund the local police force get into confrontations with officers late at night. Police respond by declaring the events riots — allowing them to use tear gas and other non lethal efforts to disperse the crowds.
Officers Wednesday night clashed with protesters outside a precinct station six miles (10 kilometers) from the courthouse after they removed what they initially believed was an explosive device but later determined was not explosive.
Police said the protesters started a fire, spray painted over security cameras, shined green lasers and other lights at officers. Several media outlets reported that protesters pulled away plywood covering the front doors of the precinct building and slammed them with rocks and other objects,
In protests that started Tuesday night and lasted into early Wednesday morning, officers made three arrests after demonstrators set fires, erected barricades in a street and tried to break into the police union headquarters, Portland media outlets reported.
Police said someone also fired a gun during that night of unrest and that a pickup truck accelerated into the crowd while pushing an unoccupied motorcycle in front of it.
No one was injured in either incident. Police have interviewed the driver of the truck but so far have made no arrests. Police did not use tear gas during the demonstration.
Meanwhile, city officials said they are starting to monitor for any potential long-term pollution from tear gas that was released by federal agents night after night near the courthouse before those protests ended last week in an area about a mile (1.6 kilometers) from the Willamette River.
Police Chief Chuck Lovell, who is Black, said he was concerned that the national attention on the protests and the resources needed to police them were hurting what he called the “beautiful, vibrant city” of Portland. Police have arrested more than 400 people since late May, he said. U.S. agents arrested at least 94 people on federal charges through July 30.
“This is not forwarding the goals of things that are going to lead to better outcomes for people of color,” Lovell said. “This movement is very powerful and I feel like the violence has taken away from it in a really kind of concerning way.”
He added: “I think it’s really dependent on Portland as a community to really say we’re not going to tolerate this.”
The Portland protests have happened for 69 consecutive days since George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis.
The clashes prompted President Donald Trump to send federal agents from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Marshals Service and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to guard the courthouse — a move that was intended to quell the unrest but instead reinvigorated demonstrators and created a focal point for the protests each night.
Demonstrators tossed fireworks, flares, rocks, ball bearings and bottles at the federal agents and used power tools to try to bring down a fence protecting the courthouse. U.S. agents responded each night with multiple rounds of tear gas, pepper balls and rubber bullets in an escalation of violence that led to injuries to demonstrators and federal agents.
On Wednesday, the city cleaned out six storm drains near the federal courthouse where the tear gas was used almost every night.
Workers have taken samples from the sediment in the drains to test for zinc, lead, copper and chromium — all found in tear gas — as officials worried about chemical residue washing off trees, grass and office buildings and making its way to the river. Portland will test water flows into the river after the next big rainstorm.
“We know that a certain amount of these chemicals have settled into the city’s storm drains. We are going to remove as much as possible to prevent that material from being flushed into the Willamette River,” said Matt Criblez, the city’s environmental services compliance manager.
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Gillian Flaccus is a reporter for The Associated Press. AP writer Keith Ridler in Boise, Idaho, contributed to this report.
About the Headline Photo: Protesters gather at Peninsula Park in north Portland, Ore., on their way to the Portland Police Association building late Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. A riot was declared early Wednesday during demonstrations in Portland after authorities said people set fires and barricaded public roadways.(Dave Killen /The Oregonian via AP)