Portland Protesters Smash Courthouse Doors, Set Fire to U.S. Flag

Skirmishes broke out in Portland on Thursday after protesters set fires, smashed windows and daubed the federal courthouse with spray paint.

Photos and videos shared on Twitter showed a U.S. flag burning. Police said an officer was punched in the face and later tear gas was used to disperse the crowds.

Downtown Portland at the federal courthouse, anti DHS/ICE and #StopLine3 protesters gather. A few of the remaining uncovered windows have been broken. An American flag burns in front of the door. pic.twitter.com/esFpeP7Tpe

— Garrison Davis (keyboard cowboy) (@hungrybowtie) March 12, 2021

Windows at the courthouse were smashed and plywood hoardings surrounding the building were damaged during the demonstration.

The protest came just days after a metal security fence that had surrounded the building for more than eight months was removed. Portland has seen widespread protests since last year, largely against racial inequality and police brutality.

Portland police said they arrested one person after responding to a "report of a group of trespassers in the lobby of an office building in the 1300 block of Southwest 5th Avenue"—the address of an office building close to the federal courthouse—at around 2.30pm PST.

"Officers arrived and found about 30 people refusing to leave, some smoking inside, some with pets," police said in a statement.

"The situation escalated when people began damaging property, including a television and the front doors to the building.

"Officers later located a suspect on the steps of the Federal Courthouse, 1000 SW 3rd Avenue, where they arrested him. He resisted the arrest, and an officer was punched in the face.

"Darby M. Howard, 22, was arrested for criminal mischief in the first degree and resisting arrest."

Portland police said they were aware of additional protests planned for Friday and this weekend.

Elsewhere, a security guard at a Chase Bank in downtown Portland reportedly pulled a gun on protesters after they appeared to try to enter the building.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the violent skirmishes later on Thursday. A group of about 50-60 people who were seen near the courthouse and in a park opposite were dressed in black, reports said.

Earlier, dozens of people marched through downtown Portland in a rally apparently in support of indigenous people. Graffiti on the courthouse said "Stolen land" and "Land back."

Others held signs with slogans such as: "Protect the land, end America."

protester flies American flag
A protester flies an American flag while walking through tear gas fired by federal officers during a protest in front of the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse on July 21, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. Protests raged in the city last year against racial inequality. Nathan Howard/Getty Images

Demonstrators were said to be rallying against a proposed pipeline expansion which they said would bring nearly a million barrels of tar sands per day from Alberta, Canada to Superior, Wisconsin.

Opponents say "Line 3" would violate the treaty rights of Anishinaabe peoples and nations in its path, with wild rice, which is a centerpiece of Anishinaabe culture, said to be growing in areas the pipeline will cross.

They also warn the pipeline raises the risk of a spill, and argue that the project will have wider environmental repercussions for a warming planet.

In December, building work on the pipeline started in Minnesota after state regulators approved the final permit for the $2.6 billion project, despite legal challenges from activists and Indigenous groups.

The Red Lake and White Earth Bands of Chippewa tribes also tried to halt work arguing an influx of construction workers would raise the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak for residents living along the route.