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Mathieu Lewis-Rolland

Yesterday marked the 60th day of continuous Portland protests against police brutality in reaction to the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis law enforcement. In many ways, this weekend's protests followed an expected flow: marches, speeches, fence shaking, and tear gas.

But this weekend also saw a few notable developments. Here's what we witnessed on each night:

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Mathieu Lewis-Rolland

FRIDAY, JULY 24

There were numerous announcements on social media leading up to Friday evening's protest calling for Portland's chefs, teachers, lawyers, health care professionals, and even dodgeball players to join the demonstrations in profession-specific uniforms. If Monday had been the Mom and Dad March and Wednesday featured a visit from very special guest Ted Wheeler, Friday was kind of a "Career Night." A group of around 40 members of a self-identified Asian Bloc was also in attendance, dressed in red and carrying this beautiful banner.

This informal assembly of blocs congregated at Salmon Springs fountain, where comedian Christian Burke (AKA Creme Brulee) encouraged attendees to dance to a critical mass of thundering drums.

“This is not a peaceful protest. This is a joyful protest!” he shouted.

At 9:30 pm, the Salmon Springs assembly marched three blocks west to join the ongoing protest in Chapman Park and Lownsdale Square. However it was already so crowded, the marching ground to a halt in a manner reminiscent of the 2017 Portland Women's March, leaving them nowhere to go. Altogether the crowd reached upward of 4,000 people protesting in defense of Black lives.

The dense crowd contained helpful volunteers passing out burritos and snacks in utility buckets, a table of free helmets and knee pads, and the national-headline grabbing Wall of Moms in gas masks with their backpacks worn forward-facing for protection.

If the federal officers gave a warning before they tear gassed the immense crowd of people at 11 pm on the dot, we didn't hear it. Thousands of demonstrators were caught completely unaware.

Federal officers regularly deployed tear gas and munitions into the crowd for the rest of the night, but an estimated 1,000 protesters remained, most of them far enough back, they could avoid the worst of the gas clouds. Dodgeball was cancelled and has not yet been rescheduled. Federal officers came out of the courthouse and dispersed what was left of the crowd around 2:30 am.

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Mathieu Lewis-Rolland

SATURDAY, JULY 25

At first it appeared like the night's biggest protest would take place in North Portland. Demonstrators gathered at Alberta Park, and although their destination had not been declared, many assumed it would be the Portland Police Association (PPA) headquarters on North Lombard. The PPA has been the site of some of the more intensely violent shows of force from Portland Police. But surprising many, the marchers briefly visited the Northeast Precinct on Killingsworth and NE MLK before abruptly turning south to eventually join up with the protest at the Federal Courthouse—four and a half miles away.

The downtown protest pulled in an estimated 3,000-4,000 attendees, even before the North Portland demonstrators joined up with them around 11:30 pm. When the North Portland marchers arrived, they ran up against a solid wall of protesters on SW 3rd and Salmon, much like the career blocs did the night before.

The deployment of tear gas from federal officers seemed less intense than Friday night—at least until 1:40 am when demonstrators succeeded in partially pulling down the fence surrounding the courthouse. That led to swift deployment of munitions, and soon after federal officers marched up SW Main and Salmon, pushing demonstrators to the west. They allowed press to stand on a corner and film them without incident, thanks to a two-week restriction from a US district judge on the interactions federal officers can have with journalists and legal observers.

A little after 2 am, federal officers retreated to stand in mass at the intersection of SW 3rd and Salmon. (Earlier in the week, PPB was ordered to cease cooperation with federal officers.) Soon after, Portland police bull-rushed the remaining protesters, chasing them north on SW 4th. Most dispersed afterward.

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Suzette Smith

SUNDAY, JULY 26

After a long weekend of protests boasting numbers close to 4,000 participants, the size of Sunday evening’s group felt almost intimate—but no less boisterous—at an estimated 1,000 demonstrators. The day started on a disturbing note when Portland Police reported a shooting on the edge of Lownsdale Square while still in the daylight hours. While a small gathering was in attendance, it’s unknown whether the shooting was in any way related to the protests. The shooting victim is expected to survive and while two people were initially detained, they have since been released, and no other arrests have been made.

Also during the day, Portland Police attempted to conflate the large number of shields that were being passed out by volunteers at a recent protest with the idea that demonstrators meant to harm law enforcement officials. This attempt—along with another tweet in which they depicted a bag of Molotov cocktails and ammunition that was allegedly found in the park
—was met with wide scorn and general disbelief by many online.

Early on Sunday evening, various speakers addressed the slowly growing crowd at the neighboring Justice Center. Speakers included included city council candidate Loretta Smith who asked the gathering for their votes in the upcoming August special election.

The demonstration attracted more people by 11 pm, and by midnight, the first attempts to breach the fence surrounding the Federal Courthouse were made, and fireworks were launched at the building. Federal officers quickly declared the situation an “unlawful gathering” and began launching munitions and CS tear gas at the crowd.

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The feds would repeat this tactic at least two more times during the night, eventually leaving federal property to push the crowd out of the area, and reportedly detaining several protesters.

More protests are scheduled for tonight, and tomorrow (Tuesday, July 28) will mark two full months of sustained demonstrations in Portland.