Portland, OR – Rioters stormed a Portland police precinct and threatened to burn it to the ground on Thursday night, according to police.
The latest attack began on July 16, just hours after police dismantled the so-called “autonomous zone,” dubbed the Chinook Land Autonomous Territory (CLAT), located in Lownsdale Square across from the federal Pioneer Courthouse, FOX News reported.
After clearing and closing Lownsdale Square and nearby Chapman Square, officials had fences installed around both areas, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
Later in the evening, hundreds of protesters gathered at Laurelhurst Park, while a separate group of approximately 200 more demonstrators converged on the area outside the Multnomah County Justice Center, the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) said in a press release.
The Laurelhurst Park group took off marching towards the Southeast Precinct on East Burnside Street at approximately 8:20 p.m.
When they arrived at the police station, they promptly blocked all lanes of traffic and shined lights in the eyes of the officers posted outside the building, PPB said.
Police used a sound truck to urge the group to “stay peaceful,” according to the press release.
About an hour later, “the group began making statements about wanting to enter Southeast Precinct and burn down the property,” PPB said. “The group was admonished by the sound truck and told not to enter the property or they would be subject to arrest or use of force.”
The rioters responded by igniting a blaze in the roadway, while others stormed onto the Southeast Precinct property, police said.
Officers began making “targeted arrests” at 11:40 p.m., and declared the gathering to be an unlawful assembly minutes later.
By that time, the rioters were attacking police using bottles, sticks, and rocks, police said.
Officers repeatedly ordered the group to disperse, but most ignored the warnings.
Police began breaking up the mob shortly before midnight.
“While dispersing the group, a vehicle associated with the group drove up behind officers, narrowly missing officers on foot and causing an extremely dangerous situation,” PPB said. “The vehicle was later stopped.”
Police arrested several individuals before “disengaging the crowd,” at which point a “majority” of the rioters returned to the Southeast Precinct and blocked the roadway once again, police said.
More rioters were arrested after an additional slew of warnings to leave the area went unheeded.
Meanwhile, the rioters over at the Multnomah County Justice Center made their way over to Lownsdale Square and proceeded to tear out the newly-erected fence around the former “autonomous zone.”
They dragged the fencing out into the street and used it to block traffic on Southwest Salmon Street and Southwest 4th Avenue, PPB said.
The rioters attacked police with full bottles when they arrived to fix the fence, according to the department.
Police “disengaged the crowd” after the fence was repaired, PPB said.
Undeterred, the mob tore down the fence again, leaving a majority of the south side of the fence destroyed by approximately 12:30 a.m.
They dragged it out onto Southwest Main Street and succeeded in cutting off traffic completely.
PPB dispersed both groups in the hours that followed.
The department noted that it did not utilize CS gas at any time during the night.
Meanwhile, federal officers protecting the repeatedly-targeted federal courthouse located on Madison Street and Southwest Third Avenue near the Justice Center deployed less-lethal munitions to drive rioters away from the building, The Oregonian reported.
The federal officers formed a line across Third Avenue near the south end of the courthouse, at which point rioters faced off with them yet again.
The officers used an array of smoke and flash devices to hold the mob at bay.
The crowd eventually thinned out over the next several hours.
It is unclear how many people were arrested by federal officers and the PPB during the overnight chaos.
Thursday night’s riots – a nightly occurrence in Portland for the past seven weeks – began just hours after Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Interim Secretary Chad Wolf arrived in the city to meet with other federal law enforcement leaders, The Oregonian reported.
Earlier in the day, Wolf released a statement blasting local Portland political leaders for refusing to “restore order and protect their city.”
“Each night, lawless anarchists destroy and desecrate property, including the federal courthouse, and attack the brave law enforcement officers protecting it,” Wolf said. “Instead of addressing violent criminals in their communities, local and state leaders are instead focusing on placing blame on law enforcement and requesting fewer officers in their community. This failed response has only emboldened the violent mob as it escalates violence day after day.”
The DHS secretary said that the attacks on federal buildings will not be tolerated.
“A federal courthouse is a symbol of justice – to attack it is to attack America… DHS will not abdicate its solemn duty to protect federal facilities and those within them,” he wrote. “This siege can end if state and local officials decide to take appropriate action instead of refusing to enforce the law.”
Wolf again reiterated DHS’s offer to help assist local and state leaders “to bring an end to the violence perpetuated by anarchists.”
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Oregon Governor Kate Brown both said they will not meet with Wolf, The Oregonian reported.
“This political theater from President Trump has nothing to do with public safety,” Brown declared, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. “The President is failing to lead this nation. Now he is deploying federal officers to patrol the streets of Portland in a blatant abuse of power by the federal government.”
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.”
Portland City Commissioner Joe Ann Hardesty said on Sunday that she is “proud to be among the loud chorus of elected officials calling for the federal troops in Portland’s streets to go home,” The Washington Post reported.
“Their presence here has escalated tensions and put countless Portlanders exercising their First Amendment rights in greater danger,” Hardesty declared.
Critics have become even more vocal about the federal officers’ presence in the city after a demonstrator was hit in the head and critically injured by a less-lethal projectile fired by a federal officer on July 11, the Washington Post reported.
The force of the impact allegedly fractured the protester’s skull.
According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, protesters have further accused federal officers of detaining people who were not on federal property.
The news outlet alleged that federal officers have been riding around the city in unmarked vehicles detaining random people since at least Tuesday.
Conner O’Shea claimed that his friend, Mark Pettibone, was kidnapped by federal officers after leaving the riots shortly after 2 a.m. on Wednesday.
O’Shea said federal officers targeted him and Pettibone because they were wearing all-black clothing.
“I see guys in camo,” he told Oregon Public Broadcasting. “Four or five of them pop out, open the door and it was just like, ‘Oh s–t. I don’t know who you are or what you want with us.’”
O’Shea said he took off on foot and hid, but Pettibone ended up getting arrested.
“I am basically tossed into the van and had my beanie pulled over my face so I couldn’t see and they held my hands over my head,” Pettibone later told Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Pettibone said the officers never identified themselves and never told him why he was being detained.
He claimed he had no idea they transported him to a federal courthouse until he was released hours later.
According to Pettibone, he was kicked loose without any record of his arrest after he refused to speak with investigators, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
“I just happened to be wearing black on a sidewalk in downtown Portland at the time,” he declared. “And that apparently is grounds for detaining me.”
The U.S. Marshals Service denied having arrested Pettibone, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
DHS did not confirm or deny having taken him into custody, according to the news outlet.
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.”
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.”
Portland business owners have reported a staggering $23 million in losses due to rioting and looting in the downtown area, FOX News reported.