On June 5, 2020—Breonna Taylor’s birthday—Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler told a crowd of protesters that Portland police would cease using tear gas on protesters starting June 6.
Wheeler’s talk was held in Chapman square near the Justice Center around 7:30 p.m. Protests against police brutality following George Floyd’s death have taken place at the Justice Center for eight consecutive nights. The talk came after speaking with some protesters in a meeting regarding the Portland police’s use of crowd control munitions such as tear gas and a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD)—a sound cannon meant to disperse crowds.
“I do not like the tear gas,” Wheeler said through a megaphone. “I think it’s ugly, it is not focused enough. The City of Seattle banned the use of tear gas for 30 days except limited circumstances. We should do the same. Tomorrow my colleagues and I will be making an announcement.” Wheeler also promised the police would not use the LRAD. As Wheeler finished speaking, multiple protesters asked, “what about tonight?”
Wheeler kept his talk brief, so as not to detract the group from protesting. “I do not want to give a speech, because I do not want to take away from the moment or distract or take away from the voices that this movement elevates,” Wheeler said. “But I thought it was very important for me to be here and to hear directly the demands. I appreciate it and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
Wheeler listened to protesters share their stories, but as the crowd grew, Wheeler’s security personnel became concerned for the mayor’s safety. Wheeler left the protest just after 8 p.m.
At 6 p.m., despite the rain, hundreds of protesters began gathering at Revolution Hall in Southeast Portland—a routine meeting spot for marchers over the past week. A moment of silence was held before a speaker led those gathered in singing “Happy Birthday” for Breonna Taylor.
At approximately 7 p.m., over a thousand began marching west down Stark street towards downtown. Many in the crowd distributed earplugs, cough drops, snacks and water bottles to other protesters.
The march then crossed the Hawthorne bridge and entered downtown and began heading towards the Justice Center to join those protesting there.
The gathering of protesters at the Justice Center continued to grow as night fell. Many protesters were clad in household armor such as bicycle helmets, makeshift armor and wielded wooden shields. Near the chain link fence, umbrellas sprouted up from the gathering like mushrooms. According to one person, protesters in Hong Kong were able to use umbrellas to prevent tear gas canisters from being tossed into the crowd.
While weaving through the gathering, Monica Picard provided hand sanitizer and masks to protesters. Picard is completing her residency to be a medical doctor at Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU) hospital.
At 11:06 p.m., Portland police declared the gathering was an unlawful assembly over a loudspeaker. By midnight, police had launched tear gas and flash bangs into the crowd, driving protesters southwest away from the Justice Center.
Just after midnight, protesters on 4th and Madison charged a line of police in riot gear, pushing police north toward the Justice Center. However, police eventually looped around the crowd in SUVs dispersing more tear gas and flash bangs.
Bruce is a security guard for three buildings in Southwest Portland where the protests have taken place. According to Bruce, many of the security guards at the same company have quit. When asked if he receives any hazard pay, Bruce replied, “I don’t get shit.”
“Honestly, I’m supportive,” Bruce said as flash bangs could be heard in the distance and three SUVs with armed police officers along the outside of each drove past. “But I want no part of it.”
Dylan Jefferies contributed to this report.