Suzette Smith

The day following the 2020 presidential election saw downtown Portland thrown into chaos after approximately 150 black clad protesters broke off from a rally in Waterfront Park to march through downtown, with some breaking windows along the way. The "Unified Command"—a term coined by Gov. Kate Brown to define the combined command of the Oregon State Police (OSP) and the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office (MCSO), temporarily overseeing the Portland Police Bureau (PPB)—showed up en masse to chase protesters through the darkened streets, shout contradictory orders, and employ multiple violent arrests.

Brown also ordered the Oregon National Guard to respond to the protests Wednesday evening.

The day's activities began in the afternoon, when two rallies brought people together to discuss injustice, activism, Black experience, and the previous day's election results. A "Count Every Vote" rally, coordinated by the Defend Democracy Coalition, began at Southeast Portland's Revolution Hall, while a rally with a broader focus on social justice organized by the Pacific Northwest Community Action Network (PNWCAN) assembled in the downtown's North Park Blocks. Both rallies marched in the early evening—with law enforcement regularly reminding marchers via a loud speaker, “not to engage in criminal activity”—before meeting up on SW Naito.

Several Black activists suggested the two demonstrations merge, but other protesters dressed in identity-obscuring black clothing (or, "black bloc") split off from the waterfront rally.

A broken window at the Hoxton’s Lovely Rita restaurantSuzette Smith

This offshoot group of 150 protesters began a march to the Multnomah County Justice Center, but took a detour onto W Burnside where they broke windows at the Hoxton’s Lovely Rita restaurant, the Roseland Theater, and the Saint André Bessette Church.

By 6:45 pm, law enforcement had declared the march an unlawful assembly. Shorty after, the event was declared a riot. At 6:55 pm, a line of officers in riot gear were chasing protesters through the streets of the downtown. By 7 pm, Brown had activated the National Guard.

Suzette Smith

Protesters continued to shatter the windows of stores as they ran. Law enforcement was able to encircle the group—a tactic called "kettling"—several times and made targeted arrests of people in the crowd. The scene was chaotic.

While National Guard vehicles began driving through downtown Portland around 8:30 pm, camouflaged troops didn't join law enforcement on the ground until 10:45 pm. Troops worked alongside law enforcement to move protesters out of downtown Portland to the west. After officers withdrew, protesters flowed back into downtown, and the process of forcing them out cycled through again. The pattern continued until protester numbers dwindled.

According to the MCSO, the Unified Command group had made at least eleven arrests by midnight. MSCO said officers also confiscated a loaded firearm from one of the arrestees.

Suzette Smith