Portland Riot Sees Government Building Vandalized, Set On Fire

Police in Portland declared a riot after a government building was vandalized and a fire set inside as protests over police brutality and racial injustice continued in the city for an 83rd night.

Officers used crowd control munitions to disperse the crowd after the Multnomah County Building, which is used for marriages among other things, was damaged on Tuesday night.

The Multnomah County Sheriff's Office tweeted that people had repeatedly smashed windows on the building's first floor with rocks and threw "burning material" inside.

.@PortlandPolice has declared the gathering near the Multnomah Building a riot after individuals vandalized, repeatedly smashed first floor windows with rocks and threw burning material into an office. https://t.co/PtByF6Gx6h

— Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office (@MultCoSO) August 19, 2020

A couple of hundred protesters had gathered in Colonel Summers Park at around 8 p.m. before marching to the building, at Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard and Grand Avenue, for the first time on Tuesday night, The Oregonian reported.

The demonstration there stayed peaceful for more than an hour, but then some lit fires in dumpsters and started breaking windows.

Police in a news release said they declared a riot shortly after 10.15 p.m. after someone in the crowd threw "a large burning object" inside the building after others sprayed lighter fluid inside.

"This action created a fire big enough to set the fire alarms and sprinkler system off inside of the building," police said.

"Because the crowd blocked traffic, started several dumpster fires, vandalized the building not limited to graffiti but also broke windows, and successfully started a fire inside the building, the gathering was declared a riot."

Multnomah Building
The Multnomah County Building in Portland was vandalized during a protest on Tuesday night. Portland Police

Officers began dispersing the crowd at around 10.30 p.m. using "some crowd control munitions" but no CS gas was deployed, according to police.

KOIN reporter Hannah Ray Lambert tweeted video of police making an arrest, writing alongside it: "Police pepper spray someone in the face and yell at people to stay on sidewalks, brandishing pepper spray cannisters."

Two people were arrested on Tuesday night, police said. Jesse Hawk, 23, is facing numerous charges including rioting, interfering with a peace officer, resisting arrest and unlawful use of a weapon. Peter Curtis, 40, was charged with attempted criminal mischief and reckless endangering.

An arrest. Police pepper spray someone in the face and yell at people to stay on sidewalks, brandishing pepper spray cannisters. pic.twitter.com/i6pBUqwH9F

— Hannah Ray Lambert (@TheHannahRay) August 19, 2020

In a statement, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury said the Office of Community Involvement, which is dedicated to engaging community members marginalized by the traditional political process, in the Multnomah Building had been set on fire.

Kafoury said there was also damage done to a lobby where protective equipment to help curb the spread of the coronavirus is distributed.

"This is the heart of our County, where people in our community come to get married, get their passports, and celebrate their cultural traditions and diversity," she said.

"The lobby where the first same-sex marriage in Oregon took place, and where millions of pieces of personal protective equipment are being distributed to help our community battle COVID-19, was damaged."

Kafoury acknowledged the "grave injustice" protesters were fighting against, but she urged the community to "work together" to address the issues created by the coronavirus pandemic.

"I acknowledge that there is grave injustice in our world and there is a violent and tragic history of oppression in our County. I am committed to transformational change," she said.

"And I ask the community to work with us: support the critical work we do every day leading the public health response to COVID-19, providing thousands of meals to families in need, answering mental health crisis calls and serving those experiencing domestic violence. In such a difficult, uncertain time, our community needs all of us to work together."

Protests that have regularly led to violent clashes between demonstrators and police have taken place every night for almost three months in Portland, since the death of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis police custody in May.