The Portland protests remained peaceful on Friday night when over a thousand protesters gathered outside the center court a few days after federal officers withdrew from the city.
Usually a hotspot for violent clashes with law enforcement, protesters instead gathered outside the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse in Oregon, with balloons, flags and painted signs that read “Black Lives Matter”.
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The scene was in stark contrast to previous nights in the over 60 days of protests in the same spot after George Floyd’s death, where protesters hit the police with bottles, fireworks and other bullets and attacked the fence around the court, setting fire around the area and police distributing pepper spray to disperse the crowd.
Ever since Democratic governor Kate Brown announced that federal officials would begin a “gradual withdrawal” from the city under an agreement with Trump’s National Security Department on Thursday, the city has remained considerably less distressed.
Disturbed isolated pockets punctuated the otherwise calm movement after midnight on Saturday, and protesters were ready to chastise rogue actors.
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A lone firework was launched through the fence and to the courthouse, where officers stood guard inside and other protesters pleaded that the crowd remained non-violent.
Later, some small fires were occasionally ignited outside the courtroom and demonstrators helped put out at least one of them.
A group identified as “Firefighters for Black Lives Matter” gathered in a small park a couple of miles west of the courthouse. Another group, “Unemployed Workers for Black Lives”, started marching towards the federal building around 8:00 PM. People were standing next to a makeshift memorial, with pictures and names of black people killed by the police, at Waterfront Park. A parade of cars with Black Lives Matter signs attached to the windows slowed traffic in the city.
Shortly after midnight, the crowd had grown to over 1,000 people who had remained outside singing “Black Lives Matter” and shouting the names of black people killed by the police. The groups were also together engaged in conversations about social injustice.
President Trump had sent US customs and border protection officers, the service of US marshals and immigration and customs enforcement to protect the city’s federal property, but the move only increased anguish. and violence in the city, which was already recovering from months of demonstrations.
Brown said that once federal agents cleared the city, the Oregon State Police would be the main police force with a presence in the city.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.