Port­land protest calm after U.S. forces pull back

San Francisco Chronicle - - NATION - By Gil­lian Flaccus and An­drew Selsky Gil­lian Flaccus and An­drew Selsky are As­so­ci­ated Press writ­ers.

PORT­LAND, Ore. — Port­land lead­ers caught their breath and moved for­ward with cau­tious op­ti­mism Fri­day after the first nightly protest in weeks ended with­out any ma­jor con­fronta­tions, vi­o­lence or ar­rests.

The dra­matic change in tone out­side a fed­eral court­house that’s be­come ground zero in clashes be­tween demon­stra­tors and fed­eral agents came after the U.S. gov­ern­ment be­gan draw­ing down its forces in the lib­eral city un­der a deal be­tween Demo­cratic Gov. Kate Brown and the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

As agents from U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion, the U.S. Mar­shals Ser­vice and Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment pulled back, troop­ers with the Ore­gon State Po­lice took over. There were no vis­i­ble signs of any law en­force­ment pres­ence out­side the Mark O. Hat­field Fed­eral Court­house, where a protest lasted into early Fri­day.

“Last night, the world was watch­ing Port­land. Here’s what they saw: Fed­eral troops left down­town. Lo­cal of­fi­cials pro­tected free speech. And Ore­go­ni­ans spoke out for Black Lives Mat­ter, racial jus­tice, and po­lice ac­count­abil­ity through peace­ful, non­vi­o­lent protest,” Brown said in a tweet Fri­day.

Mayor Ted Wheeler also struck an op­ti­mistic tone but cau­tioned that there was much work to be done after more than 60 days of protests — and not just in clean­ing up down­town Port­land.

Lead­ers in Ore­gon are push­ing for a raft of mea­sures that would ad­dress sys­temic racism in ev­ery­thing from polic­ing to hous­ing. Those pro­pos­als could be fast­tracked for con­sid­er­a­tion in a spe­cial leg­isla­tive ses­sion later this sum­mer.

The gover­nor also an­nounced the cre­ation of a Racial Jus­tice Coun­cil to ad­vise her on crim­i­nal jus­tice re­form and po­lice ac­count­abil­ity, health eq­uity, eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity, hous­ing and home­less­ness, and en­vi­ron­men­tal jus­tice.

“The coun­cil will ex­am­ine and be­gin to dis­man­tle the racist poli­cies that have cre­ated grave dis­par­i­ties in vir­tu­ally ev­ery part of our so­ci­ety,” Brown’s of­fice said in a state­ment.

A ma­jor­ity of the group’s mem­bers will be peo­ple of color and in­clude state law­mak­ers to help get poli­cies passed next year.

Port­land’s City Coun­cil also voted this week to re­fer a bal­lot mea­sure to vot­ers in Novem­ber that would cre­ate a po­lice re­view board in­de­pen­dent from any elected of­fi­cial or city depart­ment.

“We need the time to heal. We need the time to al­low peo­ple to come back down­town and ex­pe­ri­ence the great down­town that peo­ple re­mem­ber from just a few months ago,” said Wheeler, a Demo­crat. “The mass demon­stra­tions that we’ve seen over many, many weeks, those de­mands have been heard. The de­mands have been un­der­stood.”

The scene out­side the fed­eral court­house stood in sharp con­trast to the vi­o­lent clashes be­tween pro­test­ers and the agents that Pres­i­dent Trump sent to Ore­gon’s largest city in early July. Protests have roiled Port­land for more than two months fol­low­ing the po­lice killing of Ge­orge Floyd in Min­neapo­lis.

And while thou­sands have marched and ral­lied peace­fully, Port­land’s fed­eral court­house be­came a tar­get for some pro­test­ers. Smaller num­bers of demon­stra­tors tried to tear down a fence erected to pro­tect it, lit fires at the court­house en­try­way and hurled fire­works, flares and bricks at the agents holed up in­side.

Mar­cio Jose Sanchez / As­so­ci­ated Press

A demon­stra­tor raises her fist while lis­ten­ing to a speech at a Black Lives Mat­ter protest Thurs­day at the Mark O. Hat­field U.S. Court­house in Port­land.

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