KEY POINTS

  • Protests and tensions spilled out of Portland, Oregon, and into the neighboring city of Bend over the detainment of multiple people by ICE
  • Portland has served as a microcosm of the tensions between protesters and authorities since the Black Lives Matter protests began in May
  • Protests in Portland have been going for well over two months, shifting between peaceful and chaotic on nearly a daily basis

The Black Lives Matter protests in Portland, Oregon, have sustained themselves for well over two months. Like the nearby mountain ranges, the protests have hit many peaks and valleys during that time as they continue to shift between peaceful and chaotic, drawing the attention  of the nation and the ire of President Trump. 

Trump sent federal agents from the Department of Homeland Security into the city during July under the context of protecting federal property. Their arrival seemed to have an adverse effect and seemingly reinvigorated the protests in July before they were pulled from downtown Portland after nearly two weeks. However, it did little to ease the apparent tensions between Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Trump who went back-and-forth on Twitter over the situation.

In turn, the protests appear to be spilling over into neighboring communities and prompting further confrontations between protesters and authorities.

The latest protest broke out in Bend, Oregon, as crowds gathered in the city effectively block the path of buses with multiple people detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Hundreds surrounded the two buses chanting “Feds go home” as part of a tense 12-hour standoff, during which pepper spray was used on multiple protesters in an effort to clear a path, according to reports.

During the standoff, six people needed to be removed from one of the buses after one detainee reportedly suffered a medical emergency. Bend police said the protests ultimately broke up around midnight Thursday with no major altercation taking place.

“The law enforcement activity in Bend, Oregon, is part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s mission to arrest criminal aliens presenting a danger to public safety and take them off the street. The two individuals arrested each had a history of criminal violent behavior,” Acting DHS Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli said in a press release.

“While ICE respects the rights of people to voice their opinion peacefully, that does not include illegally interfering with their federal law enforcement duties. ICE will take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of its officers and detainees, and will vigorously pursue prosecution against anyone who puts them in harm’s way.”

It was not a quiet night in Portland, either, as a riot was declared outside the Portland Justice Center around 10:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The Portland Police Bureau said a crowd of about 200 people gathered outside the center for another night of protests, but tensions rapidly escalated between police and amongst the protesters. Many in the crowd were reportedly observed fighting each other while other protesters shot fireworks at the building. It escalated after a protester allegedly hit the building’s doors with an unknown substance as more fireworks went off aimed at the neighboring federal courthouse and a fire was started outside the center.

Police used tear gas and other pacification means to ultimately break up the protests and took several protesters into custody, but did not say how many. At least one officer suffered what was described as a “major injury” while multiple officers suffered minor injuries by the time the protest subsided around 1 a.m. Thursday.

Wednesday’s protests served as just one example of the tensions between authorities and protesters, though some have tried to find ways of deescalating said tensions. One path prosecutors in and around Portland have taken is to not purse charges against anyone arrested who was peacefully protesting.

“As prosecutors, we acknowledge the depth of emotion that motivates these demonstrations and support those who are civically engaged through peaceful protesting,” Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt said in a press release. “We recognize that we undermine public safety, not promote it, if we leverage the force of our criminal justice system against peaceful protesters who are demanding to be heard.”

He said authorities needed to show greater consideration when arresting protesters if it was found that they had provoked protesters and not the other way around. This was in reference to the reportedly liberal use of less-lethal munitions by federal agents during their July deployment.

Schmidt cautioned any protesters caught provoking police or committing blatantly violent acts would still be charged.

However, out of the chaos have still come stories of unity and peace that have resonated within the city and helped encourage larger protests to remain peaceful. The “Wall of Moms” is arguably one of the most famous stories to come out during the federal agent deployment in Portland as many local, like-minded mothers came together to help protect protesters from the reportedly aggressive tactics used by federal agents.

Portland’s “Wall of Moms” became an internet sensation as videos and images began circulating online showing the group’s efforts.

Portland, in the state of Oregon, has been rocked by anti-racism demonstrations Portland, in the state of Oregon, has been rocked by anti-racism demonstrations Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Scott Heins