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Police Dismantle Portland ‘Autonomous Zone’

Portland, OR – Rioters briefly established a new “autonomous zone” outside a federal courthouse in downtown Portland before it was shut down by local and federal officers on Thursday morning.

Demonstrators gathered at Revolution Hall on the evening of July 14 and proceeded to march to the Pioneer Courthouse Square, KATU reported.

Some of the protesters then made their way over to the Justice Center, where they blocked off traffic and set up barricades on several roadways using “industrial kitchen appliances, road blockades, and flashing traffic signs,” police said, according to FOX News.

The mob also ignited a blaze at the pedestal where the 120-year-old Thompson Elk Statue formerly stood.

The historic bull elk bronze was burned by rioters approximately two weeks ago.

They set up an encampment in Lownsdale Square across the street from the federal Pioneer Courthouse, and barricaded off nearby streets, FOX News reported.

U.S. Homeland Security brought federal officers into the city two weeks ago in order to protect the federal government buildings.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Mark Morgan said that the mob showed up armed with hammers, rocks, and pieces of plywood with nails sticking out of them.

“Those are criminals, those are not protesters,” Commissioner Morgan told FOX News on Thursday morning. “These are individuals that are planning, organizing with premeditation to destroy federal property and harm federal officers and agents.”

“They are coming every single night for the past two weeks armed with weapons,” he said. “They’ve attacked the building and intentionally harmed law enforcement officers.”

Rioters made their way to the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Central Precinct on Southwest Second Avenue at approximately 1 a.m. on Wednesday, KATU reported.

The group intended to “disrupt officers as they walked in from the end of their shift,” the PPB said in a statement, according to FOX News.

Officers removed part of the barricades early Wednesday morning, but “disengaged” when rioters returned to the area, police said.

The mob shined lasers in the officers’ eyes and hurled glass bottles at them before setting the remnants of the barricade on fire, FOX News reported.

One of the rioters doused the blaze minutes later, and the group rebuilt its barricade.

Rioters with the Pacific Northwest Youth Liberation Front (PNWYLF) – a group of anti-fascist, ant-capitalist teens – have dubbed the barricaded area as the Chinook Land Autonomous Territory (CLAT), FOX News reported.

The name apparently refers to the Chinook people, which includes several indigenous tribes that are native to the area, according to FOX News.

“The autonomous space at Lownsdale sq has also been dubbed the Chinook Land Autonomous Territory or #CLAT, which I enjoy a lot because we’re on stolen f–king land. So come on down to the CLAT and build some barricades and eat ribs! And stay all night! #ACAB #BLM,” the PNWYLF declared in a tweet.

The group’s Twitter feed included a multitude of updates throughout the night.

“Folks are needed on all corners to defend against the pigs! #ACAB #BLM #CLAT,” the group tweeted early Thursday morning.

“Pigs [tried] to push barricades once a couple hours ago,” another post read. “Comrades got them back and are up stronger than ever, more people are still needed for early day shifts, get down if you can. #ACAB #CLAT #BLM #PDXprotests”

Earlier in the week, the PNWYLF encouraged rioters to help people escape from police if they see them being arrested.

“Dearrests work. Don’t let the pigs snatch your friends. We protect us,” the group wrote.

Despite the mayhem, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler denounced the federal officers’ presence in city on Tuesday.

“The best thing they can do is stay inside their building, or leave Portland altogether,” Wheeler declared. “Our goal is to end these violent demonstrations quickly and safely.”

“I told the Acting Secretary that my biggest immediate concern is the violence federal officers brought to our streets in recent days, and the life-threatening tactics his agents use,” the mayor added. “We do not need or want their help.”

Wheeler said during a press conference on Monday that he does not have the authority to order the federal officers out of the city because they have jurisdiction over federal properties in Portland, Willamette Week reported.

“I have no problem with the federal government and federal officers inside their facilities protecting their facilities. That’s what they do. That’s what they always do,” the mayor said. “What I have a problem with is them leaving the facilities and going out onto the streets of this community and then escalating an already tense situation like they did the other night.”

Commissioner Morgan said that law enforcement officers in Portland just want to do their jobs and keep their city safe, but local leaders aren’t allowing them to do that, FOX News reported.

He noted that President Donald Trump has been very supportive of law enforcement officers at the local, state, and federal level.

“I don’t want to get ahead of the President’s announcement,” he noted, “but look, Department of Justice is going to be involved in this, DHS is involved in this, and we’re really going to take a stand across the board. We’re going to do what needs to be done to protect the men and women of this country.”

The PPB descended on the CLAT at approximately 5 a.m. on Thursday and gave the demonstrators 10 minutes to gather their belongings and leave the area, the department said in a press release.

“The City of Portland has temporarily closed Chapman Square Park and Lownsdale Square Park,” the PPB said.”The parks will remain closed until needed repairs are made and the parks are ready to reopen for all to enjoy.”

Police said several arrests were made as the CLAT was being dismantled.

Details regarding those arrests have not been released.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

View all articles
Written by Holly Matkin

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