Federal agents use tear gas to clear Portland protesters, police say they find Molotov cocktails
Clashes between protesters and federal law enforcement in Portland, Ore., continued on Sunday as demonstrators gathered outside a federal courthouse that has for weeks been the site of confrontations.
U.S. federal agents used what appeared to be tear gas, flash bangs and pepper balls early Monday to disperse protesters who crowded around the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse, according to The Associated Press.
The Portland Police Department said in a statement that hundreds of demonstrators gathered around the courthouse and spent hours chanting behind a fence positioned in front of it.
Police said that around midnight some demonstrators launched “mortar-style fireworks” as others climbed over the fence. By 1. a.m., a person was said to have lit a fire near the fence as some demonstrators threw objects over it. Federal officers dispersed the crowds over the next several hours, police said, claiming that it was not involved in the clash with protesters.
The events capped another night of tense protests in Portland, which have seen demonstrations in the city for 60 consecutive days since the May 25 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Unrest has mounted in recent weeks in response to the Trump administration’s deployment of federal officers to the area, with local officials demanding they leave.
Police in Portland said earlier Sunday that they had seized a bag containing loaded rifle magazines and Molotov cocktails near where the late-night protests have been taking place, though they noted on Monday that it didn’t appear to be associated with the demonstrations. They said that a bystander had pointed out the bag as officers investigated a report of shots being fired at Lownsdale Square Park.
Police said that they responded to a report of a shooting that day in the area, noting that two people were taken into custody before being released. A third person who was shot was taken to the hospital for nonlife-threatening injuries.
“Ammunition and destructive devices recovered by Portland Police in the area of this incident at around the same time appear to be unrelated,” Portland police said. Police did not say whether the shooting was related to the protests.
Sunday’s demonstration was smaller than previous nights, according to The Oregonian. Some individuals addressed the crowd in the early hours of the night and reportedly urged protesters to avoid violent confrontations.
But tensions quickly escalated later in the evening and police declared an unlawful assembly shortly after midnight. Federal officers reportedly fired tear gas and other crowd-control items around the same time.
Authorities declared a riot the previous night after protesters breached the fence positioned in front of the courthouse.
Tensions have escalated in the city after President Trump dispatched federal officers earlier this month as part of a vow to protect federal property. Local officials, including Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler (D), have said the presence of the federal agents has only made things worse.
Wheeler was hit with tear gas last week after appearing at a protest outside the federal courthouse. He told reporters at the scene that the actions amounted to “flat-out urban warfare.”
Demonstrators in cities such as Los Angeles and Seattle took to the streets over the weekend to show solidarity with the protesters in Portland. Local law enforcement declared a riot in Seattle after multiple buildings were vandalized and some fires were set.
Administration officials have stood by their actions in Portland and Trump last week ordered federal agencies to “surge” their presence in Chicago and Albuquerque, N.M. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said in a tweet on Saturday that “it’s time Portland join other responsible cities around the country to hold criminals accountable and protect federal property and officers.”