Portland protesters, federal officers clash Saturday outside ICE building

 oregonlive.com  10/18/2020 14:34:14   Shane Dixon Kavanaugh | The Oregonian

Federal officers advanced on demonstrators soon after they arrived Saturday night outside a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement building in South Portland, setting off an hours-long, back-and-forth struggle between police and protesters.

Department of Homeland Security officers initially moved in after protesters attempted to tie mylar balloons to a gate attached to the building. Federal officers then used smoke and impact munitions to break up the crowd for the next several hours. Protesters threw playground balls or rocks in response. Federal officers detained several people, although the exact number of arrestees remains unclear.

Near-nightly protests calling for criminal justice reforms began in late May after the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died after pleading for an officer to stop kneeling on his neck.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly praised the actions of federal officers in Portland and denounced local officials for failing to put a stop to the demonstrations, which sometimes end in property damage or clashes with police.

Saturdays demonstration started with a march from Willamette Park in South Portland. A flier for the event described it as a solidarity march against deportation. As marchers walked, they chanted messages such as Black Lives Matter! and Whats outrageous? Kids in cages." Many people carried silver and gold balloons shaped like stars. A fact about U.S. immigrations policy was taped to each balloon.

The march arrived around 9 p.m. to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement building. Federal officers used a loudspeaker to warn people to stay off the property. But dozens of marchers walked together on to the buildings driveway and attempted to tie the balloons to a gate at the end of the driveway.

Department of Homeland Security officers immediately emerged on foot, spraying some type of irritant to clear the crowd. Officers appeared to detain at least two people.

Someone threw a rubber ball toward officers, prompting officers to shoot a volley of impact munitions as they pressed protesters north.

The first of many standoffs then ensued on Moody Avenue. The clash drew residents of high-rise buildings out to their patios to watch the scene unfold. One person threw a glass object from their patio toward protesters below.

Officers eventually started to retreat to the building, demonstrators followed them. The pattern repeated itself throughout the night.

The second push by federal officers happened shortly after 9:30 p.m. One person kicked a rubber ball at the buildings gate. Officers deployed smoke and shot less-lethal munitions to press people away. One of the munitions sparked a brush fire that protesters extinguished.

About 100 protesters remained in the area by 10 p.m. A 40-minute standoff between federal officers and protesters ensued shortly after. Police periodically shot pepper balls toward the crowd, and detained one person around 11 p.m.

A Portland police vehicle arrived. Using a loudspeaker attached to the vehicle, an officer apologized to area residents for the disturbance, but said people were throwing rocks at officers.

Were attempting to get the crowd to be non-violent, the announcement said.

Federal officers retreated around 11:10 p.m., but rushed in toward the crowd minutes later to tackle someone to the ground to arrest them. More federal officers then emerged to advance on the crowd. One officer used a leaf blower-like machine to send billows of smoke into the air.

By 11:30 p.m., both police and a smaller group of protesters had returned to the building. After Oregonian/OregonLive journalists left the scene, live videos shared on social media showed police advance on the crowd at least twice more after midnight.

Several dozen protesters remained past 1 a.m.

Sean Meagher of The Oregonian/OregonLive contributed to this report.

-- Shane Dixon Kavanaugh; skavanaugh@oregonian.com

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