PORTLAND – Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler declared a state of emergency in the city to address potential protests following the verdict at the murder trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd.
Late Tuesday afternoon a Minneapolis jury found Chauvin guilty of murder and manslaughter for pinning Floyd to the pavement with his knee on the Black man’s neck in a case that touched off worldwide protests, violence and a furious reexamination of racism and policing in the U.S.
Wheeler said Tuesday that State Police and the National Guard are on standby and will be called in if needed. Under the state of the emergency order, the mayor is allowed to implement a curfew, close streets or buildings. The 24-hour order can be extended, if he deems it necessary.
“This is obviously a high-intensity moment here, and in many other communities, where people are waiting with apprehension and rightfully so because there is so much at stake,” Wheeler said ahead of the verdict. “I understand the apprehension, the historical significance of this moment and people’s concerns about justice and safety.”
Wheeler, who said he hoped that Chauvin would be found guilty on all charges, expected large gatherings Tuesday in the city, the site of sometimes violent gatherings following Floyd’s death last May.
People marched through the streets of Portland for more than 100 straight days last year, chanting the names of Black people killed by police, carrying signs reading “Defund the Police” and demanding for an end to systemic racism in a city that has become the epicenter of protests against racial injustice.
“Thousands of people last year, including here in Oregon, took to the streets to raise their voices in a clarion call for racial justice and police reform. A call for an America where Black Lives Matter,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Tuesday. “Today’s verdict is one step toward that goal.”
While protests have continued regularly for nearly a year in Portland, tensions have been exacerbated following recent officer-involved shootings. Many protests in the city have been declared unlawful assemblies and riots and have ended with arrests, vandalism and fires.
Wheeler described a group of 100 people, “mostly white” and “self-described anarchists” who “stand in stark contrast to those who seek meaningful change” as the source of these crimes.
“Lets be clear: Anarchist criers call for what they describe as ‘direct action,’ which are code words for breaking windows, ransacking businesses, arson and intimidation,” Wheeler said.
Officials urged business on Tuesday to lock up their trash cans, dumpsters, outdoor seating and construction equipment – “anything that can be used as a weapon or to start a fire” – and to keep their lights and security cameras on.
Over the weekend and on Monday night, multiple businesses and buildings – including the Boys and Girls Club and the Oregon Historical Society – were damaged, with videos and photos of smashed circulating social media. Police reported that $2,000 of product stolen from a Nike store and fires were set to an Apple Store, threatening an office building above it.
“Last night, yet again, a group of self-described ‘anarchists’ attacked businesses, a church, and the Oregon Historical Society in downtown Portland,” said Portland’s Deputy Police Chief, Chris Davis.
The weekend’s vandalism downtown came after a fatal police shooting Friday in Portland. The man shot in a Portland park on Friday morning, was identified as Robert Douglas Delgado.
Portland police say that around 9:30 a.m. on Friday, someone called to say a man, later identified as 46-year-old Delgado, was “quick drawing and holding what looked like a handgun.”
Delgado, who was white, had a replica black pistol, with the tip painted orange, when he was shot and killed by Portland Police Officer Zachary DeLong.
DeLong is on administrative leave pending investigation into the shooting.
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