Protesting and rioting are happening across Oregon, with people taking to the streets after a black man was killed while in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota. George Floyd, 46, was accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill before he lost his life during an arrest.
Former police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, an act that was captured on video and continued after Floyd was unconscious. Chauvin has since been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. By definition, third-degree murder means killing someone unintentionally, while second-degree manslaughter translates to criminal negligence that caused the death of a person.
Three more officers involved in the incident were fired, but have not yet been charged with any crimes. An investigation is ongoing.
On Friday night, peaceful demonstrating devolved into a violent riot in downtown Portland, where a curfew was activated by Mayor Ted Wheeler. Windows were smashed and fires were lit at the Multnomah County Justice Center and other locations. Police used tear gas, pepper balls, and stun grenades to break up crowds. Looting was reported at Pioneer Place mall.
“Portland, this is not us. When you destroy our city, you are destroying our community,” Wheeler posted on social media. “When you act in violence against each other, you are hurting all of us. How does this honor the legacy of George Floyd?”
Support from the National Guard was approved today by Governor Kate Brown. Portland will soon receive 50 National Guard troops, as well as 100 Oregon State Police officers. However, Brown urged that these officers would not be on the front lines or doing crowd control. Upon announcing the deployment, Brown said that her views do not align with Wheeler’s, and that the officers should not take a militant approach – while stressing the importance that protestors should be able to exercise their constitutional rights.
A protest in Salem on Saturday drew approximately 500 people. As the evening progressed, around 100 people confronted police. Bricks were thrown as well as bottles and fireworks; police answered with flash bangs and tear gas. City Manager Steve Powers ordered a curfew that lifted Sunday. Glass doors were broken at the Salem Center mall and statues at the Capitol were covered with graffiti.
Salem Police Chief Jerry Moore said there was “a lot of noise out there about coming to Salem” to repeat what had happened in downtown Portland the night before, to damage government buildings and the new police headquarters, according to the Salem Reporter.
After a day of lawful protest in Eugene with thousands out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, at least five people were arrested and gas was used by law enforcement on a crowd of around 50 people downtown in the late hours of May 31.
Following the use of tear gas, at least three protestors were seen breaking mailboxes at Kesey Square. Ferry Street Bridge was ultimately shut down, and a temporary citywide curfew was set for 11 p.m.
Eugene Weekly reporter Henry Houston posted to his twitter feed as events unfolded, and was reportedly tear gassed and beaned by the Eugene Police Department for violating curfew. “Turns out the first amendment doesn’t actually protect you,” Houston tweeted, as well as, “My favorite part was watching the police officers inside their tank laugh as I screamed I’m a journalist.”
A rally in Bend remained peaceful as hundreds of people took to the streets downtown, many carrying signs that decried police brutality. The Bend Bulletin reported that some drivers tried to antagonize the crowd by revving engines and honking horns, but the crowd did not react.
Bend Police Chief Jim Porter released a statement Friday that said the Floyd killing brought him to tears and made him question his fundamental trust in American justice. The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office posted on social media that the video of Floyd’s fatal arrest was “nothing less than horrific to watch and difficult to comprehend.”
About 1,000 people gathered in Ashland to peacefully protest Floyd’s killing and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement on Sunday. Police blocked North Main Street as the crowd began to move. Ashland Police Chief Tighe O’Meara attended the protest, standing in solidarity before blocking the streets off.
In Corvallis, around 2,000 people protested at the Benton County Courthouse on Sunday with signs and chants of “Black Lives Matter.” Speeches were made in support of racial justice and included American Sign Language interpreters. Fourth Street was partially blocked by people but traffic was reportedly not impeded. The demonstrators peacefully dispersed after a few hours. There was no visible police presence reported.
A Corvallis Police Department post on social media condemned the actions of the four officers who were involved in Floyd’s death, and said the condemnation is echoed by the police chiefs association, sheriff’s association and the state police.
“We remain dedicated to our core values of service, ethics, professionalism and diversity,” the social media post said. “We want to reassure you that we remain committed to working in partnership with our community to promote public safety while preserving the legal rights of all individuals.”
By Cody Mann