For the second time in the very short period Donald Trump has been president-elect, protestors headed to Interstate 5 this evening. And in an exceedingly rare instance befitting this batshit crazy week, the cops even helped.
While as many as two thousand protestors marched from Pioneer Courthouse Square this evening, stopped in front of City Hall, then made their way to the Morrison Bridge and the interstate, police quietly shut down I-5 in preparation. The police bureau announced the closure shortly before marchers—shouting lots of things, but mostly "Not my president!" or "Fuck Donald Trump!"—wound their way toward the highway.
This simply doesn't happen. In the years that protestors, inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, have been regularly marching to the streets, Portland police have most often stopped at nothing to prevent crowds from entering I-5. Typically that involves tense standoffs with riot cops.
But as Portland leaders like Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Amanda Fritz made plain their absolute anguish over Trump's victory today, officials appear to have taken a more permissive stand.
In an unexpected twist? The marchers simply passed the interstate, opting instead for Southeast Grand, then up to the Moda Center.
UPDATE, 6:38 pm: Until they didn't. After chanting outside of the sports stadium—someone spraypainted "impeach" on the wall—the protestors headed back to I-5 and shut it down, as cops maintained their light touch. It lead to some tense interactions between marchers and commuters, including at least one car speeding off after a confrontation.
The drama played out as people in cities around the country demonstrated against Trump's surprise victory on Tuesday. Five people were shot near an anti-Trump march in Seattle.
(Update: It has since become clear that the shooting and march were unrelated.)
UPDATE, 7:09: In an interview with KGW, police bureau spokesperson Sgt. Pete Simpson said the cops' dramatically light touch had to do with the immensity of the crowd.
"This size of a crowd is going to do what it wants for as long as it wants," Simpson said. "There is no way to remove 2,000 people who don't want to be moved. We’re asking for patience from people."
With marchers still shutting down the West Coast's main artery, Simpson said cops were monitoring things, and that the lack of violence was a factor in cops' decision not to intercede. Plus, he said, they don't have the resources.
"In situations like this is [removing people] may involve using force that would otherwise be unnecessary," Simpson said.
Protestors rewarded cops for their restraint not long afterward, heading back over the Morrison Bridge and into downtown.
UPDATE, 7:34 pm: The protest began dispersing around 7:30 . Marchers made their way back to Chapman Square—epicenter of the Occupy Portland movement—and began to thin, with calls to meet tomorrow. A smaller contingent of marchers stayed on to march through the streets.
The Mercury wound up having our own chat with the PPB spokesman Simpson while that was happening. We wanted to know if it was just numbers that caused the police restraint tonight, or if there was an element of the fraught political moment at play. Simpson said there was.
"This is a national issue—maybe an international issue—in a lot of cities," he said. "We are factoring in the fact that this is a highly charged time."
Simpson clarified that the PPB worked with the Oregon Department of Transportation to shut down I-5 before protestors got there, saying "we wanted to be ahead of the game." He said Commander Chris Davis, who oversees the bureau's Central Precinct, was running the police response to the protest, while also keeping Chief Mike Marshman apprised.
Simpson also mentioned that cops think this might just be how things are now that Trump has won the White House. He wondered how frequently similar demonstrations will pop up in coming weeks.
"We're already thinking ahead to inauguration," he said.
Update, 9:05 pm: At around 8:30 pm, protestors decided to conquer Portland's other freeway, shutting down I-84, probably making this the most ambitious (if you want to call it that) march this city's seen in a long, long time.
Cops were not prepared this time, but as of this writing, it appears they've left the highway.
The largely peaceful march has proven a marked difference from the protest's early moments, in which protestors and Trump supporters sometimes nearly came to blows in Pioneer Square.
Somebody is going to get seriously hurt tonight
— doug brown (@dougbrown8) November 10, 2016
A trump guy, surrounded by protesters, was just arrested for slapping a phone out of a guy’s hand.
— doug brown (@dougbrown8) November 10, 2016