The protest makes its way across the Burnside bridge as the sun sets on May 31, 2020. Dylan Jefferies/PSU Vanguard

Thousands of protesters fill Portland’s streets for third consecutive night

Thousands gathered on both sides of the Willamette River as protests against police brutality continued, following the death of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer.


Against a chain link fence, protesters packed in front of the Justice Center in downtown Portland, starting at approximately 6 p.m. on Sunday, May 31. At the same time, another group of protesters marched from Laurelhurst Park on the city’s east side. Both protests continued past Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s 8 p.m. curfew.


Downtown protesters chanted “Black lives matter” and “George Floyd,” as well as shouted for police officers lining the Justice Center’s front entrance to take a knee. Isaiah, a protestor at the event, attended the first protest that occurred on Friday of the same weekend before the curfew was enacted. 


“[Portland police] started tear gassing people and trying to push people north, but people looped around and started smashing shit,” Isaiah said about the first protest. “That’s when I decided to bounce.”


Protests at the Justice Center remained peaceful, but as the event continued past curfew, some protesters began throwing water bottles over the fence at officers. Portland police gave announcement they were declaring the gathering an unlawful assembly before throwing tear gas and firing rubber bullets into the crowd.

Protesters hold signs in protest against police brutality and the death of George Floyd outside of the Multnomah County Justice Center on May 31, 2020. Justin Grinnell and Dylan Jefferies/Portland State Vanguard

Moving away from the Justice Center, protesters were pushed west toward the park blocks by police vehicles and flashbang devices. Another gathering formed at Pioneer Square before being pushed again toward the Waterfront.


Sara, another protester and Portland State student, has protested every night since Thursday. “I got into a couple of confrontations with the police,” Sara said. “But I stood my ground, I stood up for my rights.”


At around 9 p.m., thousands of protesters who had marched from Laurelhurst to downtown gathered before the Justice Center. Multiple speakers addressed the crowd with a megaphone, leading chants and decrying police violence. Many protesters encouraged riot police to take a knee, and chanted “bring us the chief!”


At one point, an officer approached the chain link fence surrounding the Justice Center to address the crowd. The officer was handed the megaphone. He said he understood the mistrust between Portlanders and the Portland Police Bureau, and the PPB was eager to listen to protesters’ concerns. “Show us peace,” many in the crowd chanted. 


Around 11 p.m., unexpected flashbangs quickly dispersed the large crowd. Smaller groups then moved to the north and south side of the Justice Center, where they were met with lines of riot police. The police encouraged protesters to move west, but the crowd continued to push east up against police barricades. 


Around midnight, fireworks and flashbangs scattered the crowd, and police declared the gathering an unlawful assembly. Tear gas filled Chapman Square, and protesters broke into smaller groups. Police surrounded the area on all sides, setting up barricades and demanding that participants leave the area. 


By 1:00 a.m., the protest had been reduced to multiple small groups who wandered the downtown area before police were able to disperse them with more tear gas and flashbangs. 


According to multiple sources, the May 31 protest drew thousands of participants, making it the largest protest since they began on May 28. 

Another protest is scheduled to take place on June 1. Mayor Ted Wheeler and federal law enforcement official Billy Williams have called on Oregon Governor Kate Brown to activate the Oregon National Guard, according to Willamette Week.