Compared to Portland political demonstrations in November and January, demonstrations on June 4, 2017 were well maintained within three downtown city blocks, with relatively minimal traffic disruption.
“The intent of law enforcement is to provide a safe environment for all participants, non-participants, and community members while ensuring the peaceful exercise of the First Amendment,” the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) stated.
Expecting a few hundred to over a thousand participants, no permits were issued by the city for the June 4th events, scheduled for downtown Terry D. Schrunk Plaza, City Hall, and Chapman Square. PPB said they expected all rally and protest participants to remain on the sidewalks or in city parks, and advised drivers to plan for possible traffic disruptions in the area.
Constant Law Enforcement Presence Keeps Crowd in Check
In response to online threats made by multiple groups prior to the event, the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) partnered with the following agencies to keep the peace:
- Oregon State Police
- Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office
- Federal Protective Service
- Department of Homeland Security
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- United States Attorney’s Office
- Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office
- Portland Fire & Rescue
It is hard to imagine a better place for Portland city demonstrations than Terry D. Schrunk Plaza, a federal property managed by the U.S. General Services Administration, with the Federal Protective Service as the lead enforcement agency for the property. Demonstrators in that area are required to follow specific conduct rules at the city, state, and federal levels.
To keep protesters out of the streets, police stretched yellow crime scene tape along sidewalks adjacent to the streets, and officers outfitted in riot gear maintained a constant presence to keep the crowd in check. Although 14 arrests were made, no serious violence occurred.
November Protesters Spill onto Bridges and Freeway
In contrast, more than 200 protesters blocked traffic in both directions on Interstate 5 in Portland for four hours during the November 10, 2016 post-Presidential election demonstrations, which extended for several days. One woman was struck by a vehicle that tried to make it through the human barrier on Interstate 5, and a protester was shot in an apparent argument over blocking traffic on the Morrison Bridge during a protest.
“Pedestrians walking on the freeway is illegal and extremely dangerous to all road users,” Portland police said.
To prevent further incidents, the state Department of Transportation (ODOT) briefly shut down Interstate 5 between Marquam Bridge and the Fremont Bridge, and temporarily closed parts of Interstate 84.
Police Block Bridge Access to January Protesters Who Later Board MAX to East Side
On January 20, 2017, thousands of protesters marched through downtown Portland streets without seeking a permit or sharing a marching plan with authorities. Starting from Pioneer Courthouse Square, marchers continued through several downtown Portland streets, stopping only when they encountered walls of police outfitted in riot gear. Police successfully blocked protesters’ access to East Portland by closing down Willamette bridges.
The demonstrations continued. In the afternoon of January 25, protesters began to gather at Pioneer Courthouse Square and moved into the street to block traffic at Southwest Yamhill Street and Fifth Avenue. Later, protesters boarded a MAX train headed for East Portland, to be seen later walking down Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard, as traffic slowed.
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