By Katherine Fung – Newsweek
Protesters in Portland, Oregon, locked police inside their own precinct building early Wednesday morning, using the rope from a flagpole located outside the police station.
A little after 11 p.m. on Tuesday, a small group of demonstrators dressed in black removed the rope from the American flag outside the Portland Police Bureau’s Central Precinct and tied the roll-up doors, effectively locking the police in.
The front door to the precinct was also locked with a U-lock from the outside, which later had to be cut off. When officers could not leave the building, the police bureau took to Twitter to plead with the protesters to let the officers out.
“Some individuals are tampering with the entry and exit doors. This is a fire safety hazard causing a serious safety concern for those in the Justice Center. Remove the items now!” read the tweet from the police bureau.
The front door to Central Precinct was locked from the outside with the u-lock. It had to be cut off from the outside so those inside could leave. The rope was taken by protesters from the flag pole and tied to the roll-up doors on the Southeast corner of the building.
After both exterior locks were removed, the bureau tweeted, “Locking the Justice Center from the outside presented serious life safety concerns for the adults in custody and employees inside the building. The demonstrators have moved away from the building and the doors are re-opened.”
A statement from the bureau said that the flag was lit on fire and that one person was subsequently injured by it.
Riot police patrol the streets of Portland, Oregon, on August 4, 2018. Early Wednesday, a group of protesters locked police inside their own precinct building using a rope from a flagpole and a U-lock.THOMAS PATTERSON/AFP
Multiple demonstrations across the city were reported that night. The group that locked up the police officers originally met downtown near the Multnomah County Justice Center before marching down Main Street toward the Central Precinct, according to the police bureau.
However, Portland police said only one arrest was made that night, after a vehicle drove into a crowd of demonstrators, striking several people just after 1 a.m. on Wednesday. The driver, identified as Antony Eaglehorse-Lassandro, was arrested on three counts of felony hit-and-run as well as one count of reckless driving and one count of possession of a controlled substance.
Three people were treated, and all injuries were reportedly not life-threatening.
Protests continued the next evening, with one group consisting of several hundreds of people. Although Wednesday night saw extensive damage to the buildings in the area, the police bureau reported that no tear gas or force was used to disperse the crowd.
“I am proud of our PPB officers and command staff who carefully and safely dispersed this unlawful assembly,” Police Chief Chuck Lovell said Thursday in a statement sent to Newsweek.
“The actions taken by some to barricade city streets and begin the creation of an autonomous zone caused great concern for public safety,” Lovell continued. “Emergency responders need to be able to respond to critical life-safety calls. There are acceptable ways to express First Amendment rights, and this was beyond the threshold for what is acceptable for Portland.”
Protesters in Portland have marched for three consecutive weeks in the wake of George Floyd’s death after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. His death has sparked protests across the nation demanding an end to police brutality and systemic racism in America.