PORTLAND, Ore. - Rioters in Portland broke out the windows of a county government building, sprayed lighter fluid inside and set a fire in a demonstration that started Tuesday night and ended Wednesday morning with clashes with police, officials said.
The fire at the Multnomah Building damaged the county government’s office of community involvement, where Oregon’s first gay marriage took place and where protective gear has been distributed to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, said Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury.
“This is the heart of our County, where people in our community come to get married, get their passports, and celebrate their cultural traditions and diversity,” she said in a statement.
Demonstrations that often turn violent have gripped Oregon’s biggest city for more than two months following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Participants have repeatedly broken into the offices of a police union headquarters building miles and last month clashed for weeks with federal agents dispatched to protect a U.S. courthouse targeted by protesters.
Portland officers late Tuesday declared a riot outside the county building after demonstrators among a crowd of about 200 started fires in dumpsters, used rocks to smash first floor windows and tossed burning material inside that set the fire that set off fire alarms and the building’s sprinkler system, police said in a statement early Wednesday.
The riot declaration allows officers to use crowd control methods such as tear gas or flash bang devices. Police said in their statement that some unspecified “crowd control munitions” were used to disperse the crowd but that officers did not use tear gas.
Two protesters were arrested and one police officer suffered minor injuries in scuffles as police broke up the demonstration, the statement said.
The fire damaged the lobby where Oregon’s first gay marriage happened in 2004, Kafoury said.
She asked residents to support the community involvement office, adding that “there is grave injustice in our world and there is a violent and tragic history of oppression in our County. I am committed to transformational change.”
“In such a difficult, uncertain time, our community needs all of us to work together,” Kafoury added.
Police on Tuesday also identified a suspect accused of punching and kicking a man to the ground after he crashed his pickup truck on a sidewalk near ongoing demonstrations.
Authorities received Sunday night of protesters chasing a truck a few blocks from the downtown federal courthouse. The driver crashed and was then assaulted, authorities said.
Authorities are trying to track down the suspect, Marquise Love, 25, police said in a statement. The victim of the assault has been released from a hospital and is recovering.
A social media account apparently connected to Love has been disabled and efforts to locate him for comment were not immediately successful.