15 Arrested in Portland As Inauguration Day Rallies Turn Violent

January 21, 2021Joshua Skovlund
portland, riots, inauguration day, biden

Photo courtesy of Zane Sparling/Twitter.

At least 15 people were arrested after Portland Police Bureau officers were attacked after two rallies held by large groups of people unfolded into violence and destruction Wednesday in Portland, Oregon, according to PPB press releases. The PPB said one of the rallies had been advertised with fliers throughout the area prior to the event, and that similar gatherings had previously turned violent. 

“Recently, a group has been advertising a gathering at Revolution Hall which discouraged live streaming or ‘peace police,’” reads the earlier release. “Similar rhetoric on fliers in the months preceding led to events that were punctuated by violence and destruction.”

Around 2:45 p.m., PPB officers on bicycles approached the south side of Revolution Hall in southeast Portland, where a group of people largely dressed in all black was gathered for the rally, as seen on videos tweeted by KOIN News digital enterprise reporter Hannah Ray Lambert. According to the PPB release, the crowd swarmed the officers, taking one of their bicycles away. PPB backup arrived and the officers were able to regain the bike but were continually blocked while they attempted to leave the scene. 

More backup arrived for the outnumbered officers, and they dropped a smoke grenade in order to facilitate a safe escape from the tumultuous scene. According to the PPB, the crowd of about 150 people started walking west while blocking off streets with active traffic. Officers continually gave orders for marchers to get on the sidewalk because the group had not applied for a permit to organize on the streets. One of the group members can be seen carrying a flag sporting the “antifascist action” logo, while another spray-painted an anarchy symbol on a street sign on video captured by Lambert.

The PPB continued to give orders over a loudspeaker: 

“Officers have observed people in the area of Revolution Hall take an officers bicycle and throw objects at retreating officers. Everyone at Revolution Hall is reminded to obey all laws. Roadways in the area remain open to vehicular traffic and no permit for use of area roadways have been approved. Pedestrians and demonstrators must obey all traffic laws and utilize sidewalks. Failure to obey this direction may result in citation or arrest.”

The group of demonstrators transitioned into rioters when they started vandalizing and smashing the office windows of the Democratic Party of Oregon. Some of the rioters moved dumpsters into the street, setting the contents of one on fire, according to the PPB. The rioters broke up as they moved east, and officers took advantage of the smaller numbers and arrested people they identified as committing crimes that day. Police established perimeters around the officers making the arrests to “discourage others in the crowd from interfering with arrests.” 

From this initial group, the PPB arrested eight people between the ages of 18 and 38. As they made these arrests, the remainder of the group dispersed into smaller groups as they headed back toward Revolution Hall. While among the crowd, Lambert overheard people saying they should go to Irving Park where a “Rally to Inaugurate Justice” was already taking place. The rally had been planned by the Portland Democratic Socialists of America, per one of Lambert’s tweets

At the rally, a man named Ray spoke about various politicians like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as well as newly inaugurated President Joe Biden. Based on additional videos Lambert posted to Twitter, the speaker had a message for his following that these politicians are “progressive political actors,” and that Biden “is a feckless puppet of the centrist Democratic establishment, who is only president because of his ties to corporate interests.”

portland inauguration day rallies and demonstrations
Some of the weapons and items seized during demonstrations in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. Photos courtesy of PPB.

While this rally was underway, bystanders in the area of Irving Park called 911 to report a motorist involved in a rollover accident that occurred around 5:30 p.m. According to Lambert’s tweet, people from the rally attempted to help the motorist and both the driver and a child were eventually pulled from the wreck. Police responding to the car accident were harassed, according to the PPB press release

“As officers arrived, in response to community calls for their service, people from the crowd shouted at them delaying their efforts to assist whomever was in the vehicle,” PPB said. “Responding officers had to call for assistance just to make the scene safe. Assisting officers arrived and created space enough for the first officers to assist with the crash.”

The accident was cleared and no injuries were reported, per PPB. At approximately 6:10 p.m., a group estimated to contain 75 people left the rally in Irving Park and blocked streets as they marched and eventually circled back to the park around 7:30 p.m. 

At approximately 8 p.m., a group began gathering at Elizabeth Caruthers Park in the South Waterfront area of Portland. The group grew to a size of approximately 150 people before setting out toward the Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices about a half-mile away. PPB said several in the group wore helmets and gas masks and carried shields, umbrellas, batons, and rocks. 

People from the Elizabeth Caruthers Park group began vandalizing the ICE building when they arrived. The PPB said federal officers emerged from the ICE building around 9:45 p.m. and repelled the people. KOIN News reported that federal officers declared the gathering an “unlawful assembly” and began using crowd-control agents to repel the group. According to the PPB release, Portland police did not deploy any munitions or CS gas.

Over the next hour, PPB officers searched the surrounding neighborhood looking for people they had probable cause to arrest. Over the course of the hour, the group dwindled to approximately 12 people as officers made their final arrest, according to the PPB press release. The seven arrested during the latter incident ranged from 20 to 44 years old. For the 15 arrests resulting from the demonstrations, charges ranged from criminal mischief to possession of a destructive device. Multiple weapons, including a knife, bear mace, and some type of explosive device, were seized from the rioters by the PPB during the Wednesday events.  

Joshua Skovlund
Joshua Skovlund

Joshua Skovlund is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die. He covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. After five years as in paramedicine, he transitioned to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children.

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