by Roman Mendoza
Marching through Portland, a Black Lives Matters group stops at the Portland Marriott Hotel, where federal officers are residing. At 10:28 PM a man from Oakland, CA, gets to the mic, and tells Portland that demonstrators in Oakland are marching with them in solidarity.
This speech ends as a chant for Justice for Breonna Taylor. Other speakers talk about wanting the federal officers acting under DHS to leave, as they plan the next day’s protest and speak about safety. They end by saying it’s the time of night things become tumultuous and to stay safe.
The march moves to the drumbeat of a snare and bass drum at 10:35 PM. The demonstrators make their way to the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse. The crowd is larger than the night before, by at least a thousand. There were so many people, I had difficulty making my way to the front of the fence.
The majority of the night and people were peaceful, though you would never know from the federal response. Fireworks and bottles were thrown at officers by some individuals. Other agitators tried to rally others to bang the federally constructed fence with fists and plywood boards. One protester yelled that the fence was constructed illegally and claimed DHS was issued a cease and desist, also reported by The Oregonian.
The first time I witnessed gas being used was around 11:20 PM. Officers deployed the tear gas despite few if any protesters even touching the fence. Calls for leaf blowers can be heard, as I recorded the scene.
After a few minutes, I made my way to the sidewalk across the street. Five minutes had passed from the video record, when I documented another scene of medics trying to help those affected. Two minutes later, in the open street, I recorded the disarray. My wife had pepper spray, from a pepper ball on her face. People and medics shouted at both of us, asking if we needed to douse our eyes. We declined their help. Another medic had already provided us a wipe that felt like aloe vera.
After a few minutes of relief, I documented a walk-through of the protest, from end to end. Again the crowd was largely peaceful, with few individual agitators. The video lasts about 4 minutes, and, even then, I could not fully capture the number of people present.
At about 12:03 AM federal officers are heard declaring an unlawful assembly. They warn everyone present of arrest and use of force including chemical munitions.There were 2-3 fireworks thrown prior to the announcement, in my immediate view. After this announcement, protesters moved closer to the fence and began to pound rhythmically. At 12:15 AM a firework was thrown into the court house.
Police and protesters traded escalation until about 1:00 AM. Police would make announcements about the unlawful assembly and protesters would bang on the fence or chant. Fireworks were thrown from time to time, but things were mostly quiet.
Things escalated quickly around 1:05 AM when a group of no more than 15 pulled down a portion of the fence. No one rushed the building. One or two of those who pulled the fence down, and began jumping on it as crowd control was deployed in chemical munitions and rubber bullets. I was hit in the gut with a rubber round.
After getting to safety, I noticed the local police Portland Police Bureau. I recorded their announcement of a riot in the vicinity of Chapman Square and Lownsdale Park. The PPB closed a large area of the city; a greater area than that of the protest. They declared the streets from SW 1st Ave to SW Broadway closed, and SW Columbia St. to Harvey Milk St. This is a 7 by 11 block radius.
The demonstrators I saw only overflowed about 2-3 blocks, centralized at the federal court. As PPB made the announcement, federal officers formed a line at the southeast corner. They marched west, shooting chemicals and throwing flash bangs. I was lucky to find a corner for cover, to record.
What I witnessed can only be described as a completely unmeasured response. The rights of many were trampled for the crimes of a few. A hurricane barrage of gas canisters, pepper pellets, and flash bangs exploded. Smoke filled the streets until a thick fog engulfed every person for blocks.
Little did I know, my night had just begun…
Chaos Erupts After PPB Declares Riot Pt.2
Imagine the opening of the movie E.T., the smoke thick fog, the bright glaring lights shining against the mist. Add the sounds of a firework warehouse catching flame. This is Portland Oregon, at about 1:20 AM, on the early morning of Sunday July 26.
Federal officers advanced the park, so I took a chance and followed. The park, now empty after federal officers launched tear gas, had been filled with tents to offer snacks, supplies, and clothing. Officers investigated thoroughly by ransacking everything in sight, mostly coolers and tents.
I witnessed two arrests, and was frisked for weapons by a federal officer. They led the first person away in handcuffs. Before I noticed the second arrest, a federal officer approached me from behind.
As I faced west toward the edge of the park, an officer patted underneath my arms. Note, my helmet is labeled press on both sides and the back, and a sign pinned on my back read press in large black print. He continued to frisk me until he let me go. We had a conversation of me explaining I was press and had credentials. The officer was nonchalant in saying, “Alright, have a good one.” Crisis averted, or so I thought…
“I have the right to be here”—”I’m doing my job,” as this reporter gets frisked
You and I both thought the interaction would end there. I thanked the officer, but then as I turned around for the first time during the interaction, the officer accused me of impeding his job several times.
Officer: “I got you (you’re welcome), take off.” He motioned me further to the edge of the park.
Response: “I actually have a right to be here.”
Officer: “Hey, take off bud!”
Response: “I have a right to be here!”
Then we twice repeated,
Officer: “You’re impeding my job.”
Response: “I have a right to be here.”
Once more I repeated, “I have a right to be here.” While walking away, the officer responded, “Yes you do.” I entered the park again just in time to witness the second arrest.
I saw someone lying on the ground surrounded by federal officers. I could not hear anything. I began recording the arrest. A federal officer steps in my line of sight and tells me, “Step back.” He shines a bright flashlight at me and my camera.
Dense gas, bright light, and goggles impair my vision. I can hardly hear amidst the surrounding chaos that includes shots and explosions ringing out from all directions. I cannot hear the officer’s questions. Then the man says, “I’m fighting for my rights,” while lying prone.
I see 3 officers kneeling beside the man and a fourth obstructing my view, with his body and flashlight. I maneuvered for better angles and a clear shot but the officer followed and continued to block me.
The officer tells me, “Back up.” I comply but there is little space for me. The officers are all on the path leading into the park. I stand on a small patch of dirt behind the officers. The officer continues ordering me to back up. I realize I’m up against a tree and can no longer comply. I tell the officer I am stuck, since I cannot back up further. He does not respond, so I record until they lead the man away. From what I can make out, the man was resisting peacefully, by lying face down with his hands behind his back.
After these two interactions with federal officers, I felt afraid, disoriented, frustrated, and angry. I made a mistake. Frankly, I let my emotions get the better of me and began shouting. The man looked limp on the ground, and I lost my cool. I screamed, “He needs medical attention,” three or four times, before witnessing three officers pick up the man to lead him away
Knowing I was pressing my luck, I decided to leave the park. Outside of the park, in the middle of an intersection, DHS police and others formed two lines blocking East-West traffic. Another member of the press and myself were harassed and told to leave the area. We both asserted our rights, but they left.
I stood on the corner of the intersection and a DHS officer approached me and asked me to back up. I took a step back, and he asked me to move even further back. I take another step. He faces me and steps with me in time like a dance.
I begin to question how far back I should go. He tells me to go north, past the next intersection. I declined. Somehow my back got turned to the officer, while he continued to order me to leave. I argue and resist the officer moving me.
He asks, “Do you want to be arrested for trespassing?” even though I was not trespassing. I say, “Arrest me,” and I place my hands behind my back. He walked away from me into the park.I left immediately after he walked away, knowing my luck had run out. I didn’t actually want to be arrested. I stood up for myself because I was not trespassing or doing anything criminal.
My wife and I were separated since the Portland Police Bureau declared a riot. We tried to find each other but lines of federal officers were blocking traffic at each intersection. After everything I had witnessed, I needed to sit, catch my breath, and unload everything that had just happened. We found a curb to sit on and cleaned ourselves up.
Protesters began running down the street and we could see why. The federal police line marched down the street, doing what they do. I hurriedly ran up to the line to get footage, but in my haste forgot I lost my goggles at some point between being frisked and threatened with arrest.
I could not follow after the police line because of the tear gas. I had enough by 2:00 AM and could bear it no longer. I text my wife to meet at the car and navigated a maze past police lines, patrol cars, and what used to be Portland.
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