A group of 80 to 100 people gathered in the downtown area of Portland, police said on Saturday, but dispersed peacefully without police involvement. Later, a separate group of "several hundred people" marched through the neighbourhood, "vandalising and looting" businesses.
On late Friday, Portland Police declared a riot over "the widespread criminal activity" after protesters set a fire outside a local Apple store and vandalised other businesses as part of an anti-racism rally in the city.
Participants in the riot have been seen attempting to burglarize businesses. Leave the area to the west. Failure to do so may subject you to arrest and/or the use of force, including but not limited to impact munitions and tear gas.— Portland Police (@PortlandPolice) April 17, 2021
Additional photos of fire damage in downtown Portland from arson fires set during a riot. pic.twitter.com/P5VJ7cQtbV— Portland Police (@PortlandPolice) April 17, 2021
"Damage to businesses hurts our City. Our community has made it clear that it will not tolerate wanton violence and destruction", acting Portland Police Chief Chris Davis is quoted in the press release as saying. "No one is entitled to break windows, set fires, or attack police officers. If you choose to participate in this kind of criminal activity, you can expect to be arrested and prosecuted".
A garbage and forklift truck parked next to it were set on fire near the Apple store in the city centre. Soon the fire spread to the store itself, but the police and firefighters who arrived were able to put it out quite soon, according to the videos shared online.
Portland Police and fire arrive and put out the fire. pic.twitter.com/6ycVLRj0HA— Sergio Olmos (@MrOlmos) April 17, 2021
"None of this destruction tonight has anything to do with the important work of racial justice and reconciliation our community and our nation need at this critical time in our history", the police chief added.
There was a separate protest group in Portland’s downtown tonight. They broke windows at stores like Nike & banks like First Republic. They set dumpster fires and this particular fire—which started with construction equipment by the Apple Store—spread aggressively. pic.twitter.com/1oN2VTeyIM— Suzette Smith (@suzettesmith) April 17, 2021
In a tweet published during the events, police urged the protesters not to interfere with the officers as they take "lawful action" while arresting individuals and dispersing the crowd.
In total, four people were arrested in Friday's incident, which was the third time in five days that Portland police had declared a riot, according to the statement.
Police are pushing remaining protestors out to the area pic.twitter.com/9t72saYOOj— Sergio Olmos (@MrOlmos) April 17, 2021
According to eyewitness accounts, multiple gunshots were heard in the city's downtown area following the start of detentions. The police admitted using pepper spray during the crowd dispersal.
Last month, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler reportedly requested a one-time $2 million fund for police patrols from the city council to help stem the tide of protests.
Since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May of last year, Portland has been the scene of frequent mass demonstrations, some of which have resulted in violent clashes between officers and demonstrators. The violent disturbances have involved arson, vandalism, and damage to local businesses, government offices, and historically significant monuments that are considered to be controversial.