The Portland Police Association building was set on fire as unrest in that city continued to escalate, according to Portland police and a video posted on social media.
The blaze came as Portland and Oregon leaders heightened their rhetoric against President Donald Trump for deploying federal agents to the streets of that city. The Oregon Department of Justice is suing federal agencies alleging they’re detaining people without probable cause.
Portland police confirmed on Twitter that the fire was set at the PPA. “People have broken into the Portland Police Association office and lit the building on fire…The fire in the PPA office is out. Portland Police are moving the rioting crowd to the East,” police wrote.
Here’s what you need to know:
Portland Police Declared the Situation a ‘Riot’
Portland police wrote on Twitter that they were declaring the situation a “riot” on the evening of July 18, 2020. “This event has been declared a riot. Move to the east now. If you do not move to the east you will be subject to arrest or use of force to include crowd control munitions. Leave the area now,” they wrote.
Police warned people not to breach the Police Association Building: “The area near the PPA Office is a residential area. We notice criminal activity occurring in this crowd. If you attempt to set fire to, breach, and enter the PPA office, you will be subject to arrest or use of force to include crowd control munitions. Move to the east now.”
Police wrote that people were removing fencing at the federal courthouse, writing, “A large crowd has gathered along SW 3rd Ave/SW Main in downtown Portland. People are removing fencing and using it to barricade doors at the Justice Center and Federal Courthouse. Some others tried to pursuade (sic) them to stop but were shouted down.”
They added, “People lit the dumpsters in the street on fire.”
Late in the evening, police warned, “People gathering around North Precinct are interfering with the operations of a police facility. Vacate the precinct’s parking lot and move back to NE MLK Blvd. Failure to follow this direction may subject you to arrest, citation, or use of force including crowd control munitions.”
Tensions Are Growing Between the Federal Government & Local Officials
The fire comes as tensions are escalating between federal and local authorities in Portland, Oregon, as viral videos appear to show federal police officers detaining protesters in unmarked vans.
Oregon’s governor has criticized President Donald Trump for “deploying federal officers to patrol the streets of Portland,” and Portland’s mayor is decrying a “heightened troop presence” by federal officials in that city, calling it a “coordinated strategy from the White House.” Those statements came after social and local news media reports claimed federal or “secret” police were arresting people on the streets of Portland, with viral videos showing officers in camouflage using unmarked vans.
On July 10, President Donald Trump confirmed he sent federal agents to Portland, saying he did so because the city was “out of control,” according to a White House transcript. Trump added, “The locals couldn’t handle it, and you people are handling it very nicely — so nicely that the press doesn’t want to write about it.”
The Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf has come to Portland and released statements decrying “violent anarchists” and a “violent mob” and listing destruction in the city. “It’s time that we take a stand. It’s time that the local leaders here publicly condemn what the violent anarchists are doing and only then I think will local police and federal police get this out of control,” he said in a statement.
Oregon Governor Kay Brown, a Democrat, wrote on July 16: “This political theater from President Trump has nothing to do with public safety. The President is failing to lead this nation. Now he is deploying federal officers to patrol the streets of Portland in a blatant abuse of power by the federal government.”
One video that has been viewed more than 4 million times was shared by Senator Jeff Merkley, who wrote, “Authoritarian governments, not democratic republics, send unmarked authorities after protesters. These Trump/Barr tactics designed to eliminate any accountability are absolutely unacceptable in America, and must end.” A man in the video accused federal officers of “kidnapping people.”
The senator also wrote, “Federal forces shot an unarmed protester in the face. These shadowy forces have been escalating, not preventing, violence. If @DHS_Wolf is coming here to inflame the situation so @realDonaldTrump can look like a tough guy, he should turn around and leave our city now.”
Another video circulating widely:
Mayor Ted Wheeler, also a Democrat, wrote on Twitter, “A number of people have asked if I know DHS leadership is in town, and if I’m going to meet with them. We’re aware that they’re here. We wish they weren’t. We haven’t been invited to meet with them, and if we were, we would decline.” DHS stands for the Department of Homeland Security.
Wheeler shared a tweet from a Time Magazine correspondent that said, “White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany just called Lori Lightfoot ‘the derelict mayor of Chicago’ and said she should request federal help to secure the city.”
Wheeler wrote, “This is clearly a coordinated strategy from the White House. It is irresponsible and it is escalating an already tense situation. Remove your heightened troop presence now.”