PORTLAND – The mayor of Portland on Tuesday condemned the actions of protesters after more than two dozen people were arrested a day earlier during a May Day march that turned violent.
The violence and vandalism in Portland and several other Pacific Northwest cities stood out amid largely peaceful marches elsewhere in the U.S. to honor immigrants and support workers’ rights.
With piles of charred debris on street corners, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler denounced the actions of a small group of protesters the night before and praised police for a “tremendous job under very dangerous circumstances.”
“In Portland, we respect peaceful protest, but we cannot and do not support acts of violence and vandalism. That’s not political speech,” Wheeler said. “That’s a crime.”
More than 100 police officers clad in body armor and gas masks shut down a march they said had become a riot late Monday and arrested people on charges ranging from disorderly conduct to arson and assault.
Some protesters dressed in black vandalized a police car, set fires in intersections, threw smoke bombs and flares and broke windows at a courthouse, City Hall and downtown businesses.
Protesters tossed at least one Molotov cocktail that landed on a sidewalk and didn’t hit anyone, Portland police Sgt. Pete Simpson said, citing TV footage the department had reviewed.
Protests also turned violent in Olympia, where police say about 50 black-clad demonstrators used sling shots to fire marbles at officers and threw rocks and cans. Two officers suffered minor injuries. Nine people were arrested and several businesses in Washington’s capital city damaged.
In Seattle, five people were arrested after a smaller demonstration than in past years.
The demonstrations on May Day, celebrated as International Workers’ Day, followed similar actions worldwide. The widespread protests in the United States were aimed at the new Republican president, who has followed anti-immigrant rhetoric on the campaign trail with aggressive action in the White House.
Marches in other U.S. cities from Washington, D.C., to Miami and Los Angeles were crowded but peaceful.
“It is sad to see that now being an immigrant is equivalent to almost being a criminal,” said Mary Quezada, a 58-year-old North Carolina woman who joined those marching on Washington.
She offered a pointed message to Trump: “Stop bullying immigrants.”
In Portland, the violence broke out about 90 minutes into the march after a peaceful rally targeting everything from Trump’s environmental policies to the city’s homeless problems.
Some who did not participate in the vandalism said they felt police made the situation worse with an overbearing presence that put pressure on the marchers at the back of the crowd.
Portland has a reputation in the U.S. of being a hotbed of activism and anti-establishment protest, so much so that aides to former President George H.W. Bush nicknamed it “Little Beirut” for the protests that erupted there every time he visited.”
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