Demonstrators shield themselves behind a toppled fence as federal officers deploy tear gas during a Black Lives Matter protest at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse Sunday, July 26, 2020, in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The Associated Press

Portland, Seattle protests; police declare riot zones

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Authorities declared a riot early Sunday in Portland, Oregon, where protesters breached a fence surrounding the city's federal courthouse building where U.S. agents have been stationed.

Police described via Twitter the "violent conduct of people downtown" as creating a "grave risk of public alarm." Police demanded people leave the area surrounding the courthouse, around 1:20 a.m. Sunday, and said that those who fail to adhere may be arrested or subjection to teargas and impact weapons. 

In Seattle, police retreated to a precinct early Sunday, just hours after declaring a riot during large demonstrations in the city's Capitol Hill neighborhood near where weeks earlier people had set up an “occupied protest zone” that stretched for several blocks.

Some demonstrators lingered after officers filed into the department's East Precinct around 1 a.m., but most cleared out a short time later, according to video posted online.

Authorities said rocks, bottles, fireworks and mortars were thrown at officers as they attempted to clear the area using flash bangs and pepper spray over the course of several hours stretching into Saturday night.

Seattle police Chief Carmen Best called for peace at a late-night news conference, and told reporters she hadn't seen U.S. agents the Trump administration dispatched to the city at Saturday's protest.

Portland

By 1:40 a.m., both federal officers and Portland police could be seen on the streets, surrounding the courthouse, attempting to clear the area and deploying teargas. 

Protesters remained in the streets past 2:30 a.m., forming lines across intersections and holding makeshift shields, as police patrolled and closed blocks abutting the area. Multiple arrests were made, but it wasn't immediately clear how many.

In the hours leading up to the riot declaration, thousands of people gathered in the city Saturday evening for another night of protests as demonstrations over George Floyd's killing and the presence of federal agents sent by President Donald Trump showed no signs of abating.

Crowds began to march toward the city's federal courthouse around 9:15 p.m., some marching from 5 miles (8 kilometers) away. A large group of demonstrators in the North Portland neighborhood also paraded by the police precinct there, which was roped off and had officers in riot gear standing outside the building.

Protesters paused outside a downtown hotel, where federal agents are staying, chanting "Feds go home" and yelling the names of Black people killed by police. 

As protesters marched down the streets, the Portland Police Bureau posted on social media for people to not walk or block the street as they may be subject to charges such as disorderly conduct and interfering with peace officers. 

Hundreds of others crossed the Steel Bridge around 11 p.m. to the courthouse, meeting up with thousands of people that had already been tear-gassed by federal agents. 

The fence surrounding the building had flowers and banners draped across as federal agents emerged from the courthouse to inspect it. They were met with fireworks shot over the fence.

Federal agents tossed canisters of teargas at the crowd, while people ran towards the plumes, picked up some of the canisters and threw them back over the fence.

As some protesters attempted to cut the fence using power tools, streams of pepper spray were spewed at the crowd.

At the nearby Justice Center, images and words were projected onto the building including "Keep fighting. Keep pushing." 

During demonstrations the previous night federal agents repeatedly fired tear gas to break up rowdy protests that continued into the early morning Saturday. Authorities say six federal officers were injured and one person was arrested.

Demonstrations have happened in Oregon's largest city nightly for two months since Floyd was killed in Minneapolis in May. Trump said he sent federal agents to Portland to halt the unrest but state and local officials say they are making the situation worse.

There were demonstrations for police reform and against the increased presence of federal law enforcement in cities across the country Saturday. In Seattle, police declared a riot Saturday afternoon following large demonstrations and deployed flash bangs and pepper spray to try to clear crowds. Authorities made more than 40 arrests said 21 officers suffered mostly minor injuries. 

Chuck Lovell, the Portland police chief, released a video message on social media Saturday night calling for peace. 

"Across the country people are committing violence, supposedly in support of Portland," Lovell said. "If you want to support Portland then stop the violence, work for peace. Portland police officers and police facilities have been threatened.

"Now more than ever, Portland police need your support. We want to be with you in the community and working on the real relationships that will create change. We want to get back to the critical issues that have been hijacked by people committing crimes under the cover of the crowds." 

Late Friday, a federal judge denied a request by Oregon's attorney general to restrict the actions of federal police.

The Federal Protective Service had declared the gathering in Portland that began Friday evening an unlawful assembly. Harry Fones, a Homeland Security spokesman, said at a news conference Saturday afternoon some people launched large fireworks, threw hard projectiles and used power tools to damage property.

Craig Gabriel, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon, said at the news conference that of the six federal officers who were injured, one suffered a concussion and another was taken to the hospital for burns.

He said one person was arrested for failing to comply with orders. That person was later released without charges, bringing the total number of people arrested on or near the courthouse property since early July to 60.

Seattle

Police declare riot at Seattle protests, make arrests

Thousands of protesters had initially gathered peacefully near downtown in a show of solidarity with fellow demonstrators in Portland, Oregon, where tensions with federal law enforcement have boiled over during protests stemming from the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Initially there was no sign of law enforcement near the Seattle march. Later, Seattle Police said via Twitter that about a dozen people breached the construction site for the King County youth detention facility. Also, police said protesters broke out windows at a King County court facility.

Earlier this week King County Executive Dow Constantine, in response to long-standing demands by community activists, said he would work to eliminate youth detention centers in the county by 2025.

After the fire at the construction site authorities said they had ordered people to leave a different area, in a section of Capitol Hill, near downtown, where the East Precinct is. At least one person broke through a fence line at the precinct, authorities said, and moments later a device explosive that left an 8-inch (20-centimeter) hole in the side of the precinct.

Earlier this month police cleared the "Capitol Hill Occupied Protest" zone after two fatal shootings. A group had occupied several blocks around a park for about two weeks following standoffs and clashes that were part of the nationwide unrest over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Prior to Saturday's protests, Best had announced officers would be armed with pepper spray and other weapons, promising officers would not use tear gas and urging demonstrators to remain peaceful.

"In the spirit of offering trust and full transparency, I want to advise you that SPD officers will be carrying pepper spray and blast balls today, as would be typical for events that carry potential to include violence," Best said.

At an emergency hearing on Friday night, U.S. District Judge James Robart granted a request from the federal government to block Seattle's new law prohibiting police from using pepper spray, blast balls and similar weapons. 

The temporary restraining order halts the law that the Seattle City Council passed unanimously last month after confrontations that have largely been peaceful but were occasionally marked by violence, looting and highway shutdowns. The law intended to de-escalate tensions between police and demonstrators was set to take effect on Sunday.

But the U.S. Department of Justice, citing Seattle's longstanding police consent decree, successfully argued that banning the use of crowd control weapons could actually lead to more police use of force, leaving them only with more deadly weapons.

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