Portland protests against police violence (Reports).

Portland protests entered their fifth week Wednesday, hours after state lawmakers, a city commissioner and civil rights leaders raised vocal criticism about police use of force against demonstrators.

Wednesday’s demonstrations are the first since the Portland City Council voted unanimously to support a one-year extension of the rank-and-file police union contract. The protests against police violence and brutality took place throughout the city.

Several dozen demonstrators converged late Wednesday outside the downtown Multnomah County Justice Center, a hub for protests. People used loudspeakers and stood on the front steps of the building to deliver speeches and lead the crowd in chants, according to live videos on social media. By 10 p.m., most people had moved near two city parks across the street. By 11 p.m., the crowd had grown beyond 100 people. Some people built bonfires in two planter boxes beneath an elk statue in the middle of Southwest Main Street between Third and Fourth Avenues.

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Police largely stayed away until 11:30 p.m. Live videos showed a handful of officers arrive to stop people from accessing the federal courthouse next to the Justice Center. Many protesters gathered behind a makeshift barricade on Main Street

The response was a stark contrast to 24 hours earlier. Dozens of police officers in riot gear broke up a demonstration outside police union headquarters. Officers used tear gas to split up the crowd near the busy intersection of North Lombard Street and Interstate Avenue, leaving some bystanders and drivers unable to avoid the gas. Police arrested 29 people and detained three independent journalists who were watching the scene unfold.

The actions resulted in multiple calls for changes to police protest tactics.

House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, called the police actions “completely unacceptable” in a letter to Mayor Ted Wheeler. Sen. Lew Frederick, D-Portland, wrote on Twitter that he agreed. Both represent the North Portland neighborhood where protesters had gathered.

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Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty called on Wheeler and Police Chief Chuck Lovell to implement several changes, including banning tear gas for any reason and advocating for charges to be dropped against journalists arrested while covering demonstrations.

In a letter to Lovell and Wheeler, who is the city’s police commissioner, Hardesty also demanded the police bureau stop using rubber bullets and a “long-range acoustic device” known as LRAD on protesters, reconsider officers responding to protests in riot gear, make officer identification numbers easier for the public to read and allow only the police chief and mayor to declare a gathering unlawful.

Hardesty said the actions of some officers are becoming “more outlandish” and said she’s asking her city official colleagues to “act in the community’s best interest and safety.” She told the Wheeler and Lovell to develop less harmful crowd control options within 30 days.

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“The irony of community members protesting police violence being met with police violence is not lost on me,” Hardesty said in the letter. “Community members exercising their freedom of assembly and freedom of speech are not the enemy, and I ask that the bureau and its staff reflect that understanding in its response to events.”

Over five weeks of protests, many demonstrators have repeatedly called for massive budget cuts to the police bureau and more accountability of police officers. Some protesters contend that systemic racism is so deeply embedded within police agencies and courts that the entire criminal justice system is beyond fixing.

The demands for change have echoed across the globe since the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd in late May.


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