Portland protest takes down statues of former presidents, police declare a riot

portland Roosevelt
Demonstrators protesting white colonialism on a ‘Day of Rage’ march in downtown Portland, Oct. 11, 2020, pulled down this statue of President Theodore Roosevelt.

A demonstration in Portland, Oregon, that included people breaking windows and taking down statues of former Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln has been declared a riot by police.

Media reports from Portland including reports by major international news agencies said:

The protests were part of a “Day of Rage” declared over the celebration of Columbus Day on Monday. Organizers named the event “Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage” to shed light on Italian explorer Christopher Columbus’ role in the genocide of the native populations in the Americas.

Public disturbances are continuing in Portland for about three months.

A mass gathering formed Sunday night in downtown Portland, where demonstrators used chains to topple the statues, the Portland Police Department tweeted just before midnight.

The crowd also threw red paint on the Roosevelt monument, photos show, and used a blowtorch on the statue’s base.

The statues were erected in the 1920s, and several other statues that were considered possible targets were removed, The Oregonian reported. A statue of Thomas Jefferson was pulled down by protesters in June.

About 200 people were in the crowd, according to the local newspaper.

A glass window for the Oregon Historical Society was smashed with a police officer standing inside, ABC Portland affiliate KATU reported. Windows were also smashed at the Portland State University Campus Public Safety office.

Police warned that anyone taking part in the vandalism was subject to a citation or arrest. About an hour after their initial tweet, Portland police declared the protests a riot and instructed all those marching to disperse or else crowd control measures such as tear gas and impact weapons would be used.

The city has been experiencing months of unrest following the May 25 death of George Floyd, who died as a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for several minutes as three other officers watched on.

In early September, protesters hurled multiple fire bombs, mortars, rocks and other items and police officers on the 100th night of demonstrations in the city, Hundreds of protesters have been arrested by authorities in Portland since late May.

In July, President Donald Trump’s administration deployed federal law enforcement to Portland, sparking tension between federal and local authorities and a public feud on Twitter between Portland’s mayor and a top homeland security official.

Trump, who has put “law and order” at the forefront of his campaign for re-election, tweeted, “Put these animals in jail, now” Monday morning and criticized “The Radical Left fools in Portland” for not wanting “any real help.”

Before the latest Portland protest, one flyer instructed people to “wear black, cover up” and said photography, videotaping and streamers were not allowed.

People gathered around the Abraham Lincoln statue, which was pulled down on Sunday night.

At a press conference Monday, Mayor Ted Wheeler labeled the behavior of the group of about 300 people “obscene” and “anarchist,” and said he would not condone or tolerate criminally destructive acts.

Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell said the group put chains around a statue of Teddy Roosevelt and pulled it down, using a vehicle. The crowd then toppled an Abraham Lincoln statue. Many in the group were dressed entirely in black, with masks, body armor, and helmets, and were carrying shields, Lovell said.

3 arrested

Three arrests have been made so far, including a person armed with a loaded pistol who broke numerous windows, and the driver involved in pulling down the Roosevelt statue, according to Lovell.

Dakota 38, the largest mass execution in the U.S.

In addition to being pulled down, the Lincoln statue had “Dakota 38” spray painted on its base, photos show.

That’s a reference to 38 Dakota natives hanged in Mankato, Minnesota – the largest mass execution in the U.S., which Lincoln ordered. Then-Minnesota Gov. Alexander Ramsey originally ordered more than 300 men sentenced to hanging but Lincoln reduced the number.

The hangings took place after the Dakota War of 1862, also known as the Sioux Uprising.

Roosevelt’s statue had “stolen lands” written on it. He has drawn criticism for his forced removal of indigenous persons, which he used to make his conservation efforts possible.

No injuries reported

The original idea of the protest appears to have been started by an organization called Indigenous Action.

“We envision this Day of Rage to be decentralized, filled with creative direct action (both above ground and below ground), daring, and with extraordinary diversity of tactics,” the groups says in a post on its website.

Lovell said two shots were fired through a restaurant window, lodging in the back of the restaurant. Windows were also broken at several other restaurants, a jewelry store, a bank, and a coffee shop.

Lovell said protesters broke several windows of the Oregon Historical Society pavilion, tossing at least three lit flares inside. The flares extinguished themselves and did not do any serious damage.

There were no serious injuries and no deaths, he said.

Kerry Tymchuk, the historical society’s executive director, said an African American quilt made by 15 African American women ahead of the U.S. bicentennial, “a priceless piece of history here,” was stolen from the building. The quilt was found several blocks away Monday morning, very wet but salvageable, according to Tymchuk.

Lovell expressed frustration at the five-month mark of destructive crowd activity in the city.

“These events late at night, they purport to have a racial justice nexus,” Lovell said. “But they’re not that. They are about violence and criminal destruction. They’re really hurting our community and we all deserve better.”

A report by The Oregonian said:

Portland’s mayor and police chief Monday vowed to pursue and punish protesters who broke windows and threw flares into the Oregon Historical Society, toppled statues of two celebrated U.S. presidents and fired gunshots into a restaurant during a downtown riot the previous night.

But the culprits may prove difficult to identify let alone capture.

After months of demonstrations punctuated by violent clashes or vandalism, many of the city’s most militant protesters remain largely elusive or unknown.

Calls to action by often anonymous organizers spread rapidly among left-wing activists on social media and can come together in a matter of hours.

Some participants take steps to shield their identities during marches or demonstrations that — while leaderless in appearance — can have a specific goal and the tools to carry it out.

Such dynamics were on vivid display Sunday night, escalating destructive tactics that had waned in recent weeks.

Protest organizers using the Twitter account Generational Resistance started promoting an “Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage” only the day before.

The event generated an immediate interest in activist circles that have demanded an end to systemic racism and police brutality since the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

Generational Resistance, which calls itself “a BIPOC affinity group” and has just under 2,800 followers, laid out a loose outline for the evening.

There would be an undisclosed “direct action” involved. Participants should dress in black and “cover up.” Photographs, video or livestreams would be prohibited.

Members of Generational Resistance could not be reached for comment through their Twitter account, though the group released a statement Monday night.

“We stand to decolonize ourselves and decolonize society by working to abolish colonial systems rooted in racism and build community rooted in liberation,” the statement said.

Abolish police, prisons and capitalism

Members also called for the abolition of police, prisons and capitalism, the return of land to Indigenous communities, and said they supported reparations for Black people and their descendants.

More than 200 people braved a steady downpour and gathered beneath the western span of the Burnside Bridge, the protest starting point, by about 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

Most of the participants dressed head-to-toe in black and wore face coverings. Several milled about and handed out shields, body armor and helmets to those who wanted them.

A group of Native organizers, some whom were not masked, burned sage and asked the crowd to line up behind a banner that read, “This is Indigenous Day. We want our land back.”

The crowd then began a 20-block march through downtown Portland to the city’s South Park Blocks, delivering call-and-response chants and singing Indigenous songs.

As people reached a statue of President Theodore Roosevelt on horseback in front of the Portland Art Museum, a person on a megaphone announced they had arrived at their destination.

Several in the crowd started to affix chains and straps to the Roosevelt statue, a bronze sculpture officially titled “Theodore Roosevelt, Rough Rider,” as others took a blowtorch to its base and splattered it with red paint.

They began to pull until the statue rocked from side to side before falling down at 8:51 p.m. Protesters erupted in cheers as dance music played on a large portable speaker.

The crowd then set its sights on an Abraham Lincoln statue a block away, toppling it minutes later.

Afterward, some protesters began smashing windows at the Oregon Historical Society while others unfurled a banner that read, “Stop honoring racist colonizer murderers.” Flares were also thrown into the building’s lobby though they quickly extinguished, police later said.

A mural on the attached Sovereign Hotel building depicting the Lewis & Clark expedition was splattered with red paint.

Over the next half-hour, demonstrators used batons, bicycle locks and other objects to shatter windows at Portland State University and along a seven-block stretch of Southwest Fifth Avenue.

Police said one person fired two bullets into the front windows of an empty restaurant on Southwest Park Avenue.

During the demonstration, people in the crowd repeatedly admonished others suspected of filming or taking pictures.

Passersby who happened upon the group were ordered by demonstrators to stop shooting video or to delete photographs, including an apartment resident who had lasers shined at his eyes and a liquid thrown in his face, as he appeared to film the scene from his terrace.

A woman with a child was later threatened for taking a photograph of the crowd as it marched along Southwest Fifth Avenue.

No police were visibly present as the rampage continued, though several warnings were given on a loudspeaker.

After more than an hour police declared a riot as the march neared Pioneer Courthouse Square. Minutes later, a phalanx of police cruisers and officers in tactical gear emerged and dispersed the crowd north into the Old Town Chinatown neighborhood.

Portland police on Monday said they took three people into custody, including one man accused of breaking several windows and another accused of using a van to help pull down the Roosevelt statue.

Officers have made more than 1,000 arrests at protests since late May, though the majority of them have been for misdemeanor crimes such as interfering with a public safety officer and disorderly conduct. Multnomah County prosecutors have declined to prosecute nearly 70% of protest-related cases.

Police Chief Chuck Lovell said during a morning press conference that the bureau would continue to investigate suspected crimes committed at the South Park Blocks demonstration.

However, when asked, Lovell could not say who the organizers of the event were if or if they had ties to Portland’s Indigenous community.

And while the chief said Portland police had known about the protest in advance, they had no idea where demonstrators intended to march or what they planned to do.

Speaking at the same press conference, Wheeler offered a reprimand while seeming to acknowledge the difficulty in stopping the vandalism.

“If you’re here engaging in acts of violence and criminal destruction we do not tolerate it, we will not tolerate it,” he said. “We will do our level best to hold you accountable.”



Support Countercurrents

Countercurrents is answerable only to our readers. Support honest journalism because we have no PLANET B.
Become a Patron at Patreon

Join Our Newsletter


Join our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Get CounterCurrents updates on our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Related Posts

How Can you!

Without radical action, there is no “reforming” ingrained issues of supremacy and racism in the US Image: Several hundred people march on Flatbush Ave. in Brooklyn on Friday to protest…

The Rittenhouse Verdict

Fanon had written that the colonized belonged to a higher cognitive category than the colonizer for a simple reason: The colonized have to be able to think of themselves and…

Join Our Newsletter

Annual Subscription

Join Countercurrents Annual Fund Raising Campaign and help us

Latest News