The Journal Gazette
Saturday, August 01, 2020 1:00 am

Protests in Portland relatively calm after federal drawdown


PORTLAND, Ore. – Leaders in Portland, Oregon, caught their breath and moved forward with cautious optimism Friday after the first nightly protest in weeks ended without any major confrontations, violence or arrests.

The dramatic change in tone outside a federal courthouse that's become ground zero in clashes between demonstrators and federal agents came after the U.S. government began drawing down its forces in the liberal city under a deal between Democratic Gov. Kate Brown and the Trump administration.

As agents from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Marshals Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement pulled back, troopers with the Oregon State Police took over. There were no visible signs of any law enforcement presence outside the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse, where a protest lasted into early Friday.

“Last night, the world was watching Portland. Here's what they saw: Federal troops left downtown. Local officials protected free speech. And Oregonians spoke out for Black Lives Matter, racial justice, and police accountability through peaceful, nonviolent protest,” Brown said in a tweet Friday.

Mayor Ted Wheeler also struck an optimistic tone but cautioned that there was much work to be done after more than 60 days of protests – and not just in cleaning up downtown Portland.

Leaders in Oregon are pushing for a raft of measures that would address systemic racism in everything from policing to housing. Those proposals could be fast-tracked for consideration in a special legislative session later this summer.

The governor also announced the creation of a Racial Justice Council to advise her on criminal justice reform and police accountability, health equity, economic opportunity, housing and homelessness, and environmental justice.

“The council will examine and begin to dismantle the racist policies that have created grave disparities in virtually every part of our society,” Brown's office said in a statement.

A majority of the group's members will be people of color and include state lawmakers to help get policies passed next year.

Portland's City Council also voted this week to refer a ballot measure to voters in November that would create a police review board independent from any elected official or city department.

“We need the time to heal. We need the time to allow people to come back downtown and experience the great downtown that people remember from just a few months ago,” said Wheeler, a Democrat. “The mass demonstrations that we've seen over many, many weeks, those demands have been heard. The demands have been understood.”

Sign up for our daily headlines newsletter

Top headlines are sent daily