Withdrawal of federal agents from the front-line demonstration police in downtown Portland significantly reduced tensions in the city overnight.
Protesters in support of Black Lives Matter once again gathered near the federal court which became a fast-paced spot, and the scene of night battles amid tear gas spin after Donald Trump sent agents to end it. what he called anarchy in the city after weeks of demonstrations.
But in the absence of federal officers, Thursday night’s protest passed without any major incidents or police intervention.
On Wednesday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown agreed with the White House that state police would take responsibility for guarding the courthouse after weeks of escalating protests. She said “Trump troops” were behaving like an occupying army in Portland and were provoking riots with heavy-handed tactics.
By contrast, state troops did not intervene even when the scale of the protest Thursday night crossed the point, as demonstrators shook the fence around the courthouse, where in early demonstrations federal agents generally fired tear gas, stun grenades and rounds of sticks. .
In the absence of confrontation, and with the state police remaining largely invisible within the court, tensions were quickly eased. Without federal forces to draw attention, protest organizers kept the focus on Black Life Issues and Portland police reform.
Some of the crowd worked to avoid trouble by stopping demonstrators from lighting fires and firing fireworks in the courtroom as they had done in previous nights.
Dan Thomas, an African-American man stood in the street shouting at people not to cause a confrontation with the state police.
“The attack on the federal building is not a matter of black life. Leave it alone. You are playing into the hands of Trump,” he said.
One woman shouted, “Stupid white people just here for their own reasons.”
Despite the concerns of many in the crowd that the Trump administration would not fulfill the deal to pull back federal officers, none were seen on the streets.
Trump tweeted that the agents would remain in Portland until Brown brought the protests led by “anarchists and agitators” under control.
“If she can’t do that, the federal government will do it for her. We will not leave until there is security! “Trump wrote.
Brown and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said state and city police forces would try to disinfect the protests rather than confront the demonstrators.
Wheeler said city police, state troops and the county sheriff’s office had agreed not to use tear gas unless there was a threat to life or serious injury.
“Federal officials are using CS gas extensively, indiscriminately and overnight,” he said. “That’s why it’s escalating the behavior we’re seeing on the street rather than underestimating it, and that’s why it needs to end.”
Wheeler apologized to Portland police for using tear gas in late May and June to break up Black Lives’s milking protests.
“It should never have happened,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Portland police cleared two parks in front of the courthouse and county jail that served as a venue for protests. Officers then closed the parks and marked them as closed. But this seemed surprisingly provocative and difficult to implement.
When some protesters threw the yellow police ribbon and started shouting: “Which park? Our park? Portland officers quietly left the park and were not seen again for the rest of the evening.