One year after the murder of George Floyd, protestors in Portland, Oregon gathered to commemorate what the last year has meant for the Black Lives Matter movement. Floyd was killed by Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer when Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly ten minutes. Chauvin was found guilty on murder charges earlier this year, outraging some pro-police groups and vindicating BLM.
As the Oregon protest went on last night, however, authorities claim it began to turn violent. Protestors began to smash windows, and police claim that some protestors hurled eggs and frozen water bottles at them. Around 9:25 PM, Portland police declared the gathering an unlawful assembly and ordered the crowd to disperse.
Portland police claim that the protest turned into a riot as the evening went on. Protestors are said to have set off fireworks and to have set fire to a dumpster near a municipal building. Others were seen using spray paint to tag the building, while police claim some protestors could be heard chanting “burn the building down”.
After the assembly was declared unlawful, police used a loudspeaker to attempt to disperse the crowd, or otherwise dissuade them from engaging in criminal behavior. The crowd later went back to City Hall allegedly smashed windows, prompting police to declare the gathering a “riot” by 10 PM. Further windows in the downtown region of Portland were smashed as the night went on, according to reporting from the Oregonian.
According to reports from police, some individuals were arrested throughout the evening after 11 PM for their actions during the protest.
Floyd’s death in May of 2020 was a spark for the Black Lives Matter movement that incited widespread protests across the US and beyond. The protestors called on police to stop treating black Americans as though their lives were worthless, citing instances of police brutality against black people.
Some in the US have pushed back against BLM’s message, arguing that police have no inherent bias based on race. Among those who oppose BLM, many argue that the group’s protests morphing into riots that include the destruction of property dilutes their message and makes the group appear lawless and destructive.
Portland, in particular, is known for its very progressive community and contentious relationship between the town and the police. Tuesday’s incidents are yet another example of the two sides of the city coming into direct conflict.