Portland Police Union Building Set Aflame as Police Declare Riot, Use Tear Gas

Protesters in Portland broke into a police union building and set it on fire, prompting police to declared a riot and deploy tear gas to disperse crowds.

The Portland Police Association building was set ablaze on the 52nd straight night of demonstrations in the city, touched off by the death of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis police custody in May.

The PNW Youth Liberation Front hosted a protest to demand the abolition of the Portland Police Bureau and decry police brutality on Saturday night, according to OregonLive. Demonstrators had chanted outside Portland Police's North Precinct on Saturday evening, but dispersed at around 9:30 p.m.

Some demonstrators made their way to the Portland Police Association building and flipped dumpsters onto their sides to form a barrier around the building. Some of the dumpsters were set on fire, police said.

Officers were able to put out the fire inside the PPA office and have restored order in the neighborhood there.

— Portland Police (@PortlandPolice) July 19, 2020

Police threatened to use crowd control munitions if protesters did not leave and declared the gathering a riot.

According to OregonLive, after police charged at protesters, some entered the police union building and set it on fire.

"People have broken into the Portland Police Association office and lit the building on fire," police tweeted. "This event has been declared a riot. Move to the east now. If you do not move to the east you will be subject to arrest or use of force to include crowd control munitions. Leave the area now."

Tear gas was used to disperse protesters, according to video posted from the scene.

Zane Sparling, a reporter with The Portland Tribune, shared a video on Twitter showing one federal officer striking a protester with a baton while another sprayed him with a liquid.

"Federal police strike protester with baton, use pepper spray and tear gas outside courthouse in Portland," Sparling wrote alongside the video.

Federal police strike protester with baton, use pepper spray and tear gas outside courthouse in Portland pic.twitter.com/VX2xTVaaYq

— Zane Sparling (@PDXzane) July 19, 2020

KOIN News reporter Jennifer Dowling posted a video on Twitter, adding that multiple rounds of tear gas had been deployed.

It came after Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum on Friday announced a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Marshals Service and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Federal Protection Service in federal court.

Rosenblum said federal agents had "engaged in unlawful law enforcement in violation of the civil rights of Oregonians by seizing and detaining them without probable cause."

She said she was seeking a temporary restraining order to "immediately stop federal authorities from unlawfully detaining Oregonians."

This was the moment that people started clearing out due to this latest round of tear gas deployment. #koin6news #PNW #protest #PDX #protrsters #Portland #RoseCity #PoliceReform #BLM pic.twitter.com/AdlfhzaWhK

— Jennifer Dowling (@JenDowlingKoin6) July 19, 2020

In a statement, Rosenblum said: "The federal administration has chosen Portland to use their scare tactics to stop our residents from protesting police brutality and from supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. Every American should be repulsed when they see this happening. If this can happen here in Portland, it can happen anywhere."

The Trump administration has enlisted federal agents, including an elite U.S. Customs and Border Protection team based on the U.S.-Mexico border, to protect federal property in Portland. But reports said some agents had been driving around in unmarked vans and grabbing protesters from areas that are not near federal property, without identifying themselves.

Tensions heightened after an officer with the Marshals Service left a protester with critical injuries after firing a less-lethal round at the man's head on July 11.

On Friday night, several hundred people attended a vigil outside the Multnomah County Justice Center, according to Oregon Live, which is located between two federal buildings.

Federal officers, many in camouflage, emerged from across from the Justice Center and used impact munitions, stun grenades and gas to forcibly clear the area. Portland Police later confirmed on Twitter that CS gas, a type of tear gas, had been used by federal officers outside the federal courthouse.

"As Portland Police performed their work, other law enforcement officers including some from federal agencies took action as well, under their own supervision and direction," police said in a statement.

Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty condemned the actions of federal authorities, adding that local police had "once again joined in the aggressive clampdown of peaceful protest."

Mayor @tedwheeler, I've had enough. If you can't control the police, give me the Portland Police Bureau. Full Statement below. pic.twitter.com/Xq4dkV2Tdr

— Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty (@JoAnnPDX) July 18, 2020

Hardesty, who oversees the city's fire department, also slammed Mayor Ted Wheeler, telling him that he needed to better control local police or hand over the reins to her.

"I demand action right now. Mayor Wheeler, you can't control the police, give me the Portland Police Bureau," she said.

Wheeler has expressed his frustration at the presence of federal agents in Portland, saying on Twitter that it was "escalating an already tense situation." He added: "Remove your heightened troop presence now."

In a tweet late on Saturday night, Wheeler said he has directed that federal law enforcement can no longer work in the Portland Police incident command center.

"Earlier today I directed that staff who are part of federal agency operations are no longer allowed to co-locate with the police bureau's incident command," he wrote. "While sharing a space helped facilitate clear communication, based on recent actions by federal law enforcement officers I am not comfortable having them in our space."

Federal officers prepare to disperse the crowd of protestors outside the Multnomah County Justice Center on July 17, 2020, in Portland, Oregon. Mason Trinca/Getty Images