PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – Police in Portland used pepper spray and made several arrests as roughly 300 demonstrators protesting a grand jury decision not to indict a Missouri police officer in the killing of an unarmed teenager roamed the city, blocking traffic Tuesday night.
Officers finally used loudspeakers to tell the crowd to disperse. Protesters trying to get away from police then headed up a narrow staircase and met more officers. By 8 p.m. the protest had largely dispersed.
The smaller protest group marched across a major Willamette River bridge into east Portland after a downtown rally and march that drew about 1,000 people wound down. Bus and light rail traffic was disrupted.
Around 9:30 p.m., a crowd quietly gathered at Salmon Springs and the protest generally ended along the waterfront. Police were not noticeably present.
The protest began around 6:30 p.m., about 2.5 hours after a rally began at the Justice Center at SW 3rd and Madison. For 90 minutes, the swelling crowd listened to speakers organized by the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform. A march through the streets of Portland began peacefully and they chanted, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot”, the chant first used when Michael Brown was shot August 9 by Ferguson officer Darren Wilson.
It remained peaceful until a group split off from the main marchers and clashed with police.
Police in riot gear prevented the protesters from crossing the Morrison and Burnside bridges. The crowd also went up westbound Stark and headed toward MLK as the Mounted Patrol unit made its presence known. Police tried to get the protesters off the bridge and out of the streets, and that was the moment things got a bit out of control.
Protesters jumped the barrier and tried to get on Interstate 5, and protesters began throwing rocks and bottles.
Around 8 p.m., the crowd dispersed on SE Water Avenue, the police left and the road opened to traffic. But the protesters then moved to SW 18th and Morrison by Providence Park. A tense standoff with police ended when protesters got out of the street and back on the sidewalk and then moved south toward Salmon Springs along the waterfront.
Aside from blocking traffic, police said some of the protesters were engaging in criminal activity, including throwing rocks and bottles at officers. That’s when authorities began using pepper spray and made arrests.
“It’s OK to be angry. It’s OK to have feelings, but when you combine assaulting people and cars or breaking someone’s property that’s not yours then you really overstep the bounds,” PPB Sgt. Peter Simpson said. “And your message, whatever it may be, is going to be drowned out by the criminal behavior you are exhibiting.”
A total of seven people were arrested, PPB officials said:
Danica Brown, 46; Berick Heroux, 55; Dylan Croasdill, 21; Amanda Calderon, 19; Michael Chavez, 41; Gregory Smith, 47; and Brandon Bashaw, 31 all face charges of interfering with a peace officer and second-degree disorderly conduct. Calderon also faces a charge of resisting arrest.
A Hillsboro man sitting in a car was punched in the face by a protester. Jeffrey Martens, 37, was not seriously hurt, and the police began an investigation into the assault.
The rally and march was cosponsored by Portland Copwatch, Portland Jobs with Justice, Jewish Voice for Peace-Portland, All African People’s Revolutionary Party, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and Killjoy Prophets.
“We in Portland have had many Michael Browns– Kendra James, Jahar Perez, Aaron Campbell, James Chasse– so we know how important it is to bring officers to justice when they have used excessive and deadly force,” said Dr. LeRoy Haynes, Jr, Chair of the AMA Coalition in a statement prior to the rally and march.