Portland protests: All you need to know about ongoing unrest

Who’s protesting? How long has Portland seen the protests? Here’s what you need to know about the demonstrations.

Portland Sheriffs
A Multnomah County Sheriffs deputy points a less-lethal weapon at anti-police protesters near the Portland east police precinct a day after political violence left one person dead in Portland, Oregon [Nathan Howard/Getty Images via AFP]

The fatal shooting of a protester in Portland on Saturday has brought increased scrutiny on demonstrations across the country in light of the deadly shootings in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Demonstrators in both cities are calling for criminal justice reform and an end to systemic racism. Kenosha’s demonstrations began in earnest after the shooting of Jacob Blake last week. Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, is accused of opening fire and killing three Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters

The victim of the fatal shooting in Portland was reportedly a right-wing supporter of US President Donald Trump. Tensions look set to rise in Portland, already a pivotal city in the continuing nationwide protests. Critics are saying Trump is encouraging the violence.

This is what we know about the protests:

For how long have the demonstrations occurred?

Portland has seen almost 100 consecutive nights of demonstrations since May, following the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody, which set off nationwide protests.

The demonstrations have been both peaceful and violent. Protesters have vandalised police vehicles and Portland’s Federal Courthouse. There have been reports of looting, too.

Portland police have responded with arrests, tear gas and so-called “less-lethal munitions”, such as stun and smoke grenades and plastic bullets. Federal troops faced serious criticism after reports and videos showed them “kidnapping” unarmed protesters and taking them away in unmarked vehicles.

They have also faced criticism for attacking legal observers and journalists, prompting lawsuits.

Under a deal between Trump and Oregon Governor Kate Brown at the end of July, federal troops withdrew from Portland to be replaced by local and state police.

Who’s protesting?

Various groups of activists, organisers and unaffiliated people. Many of the groups are supportive of the BLM movement that has gained momentum since Floyd’s alleged murder.

The groups have reportedly included the Albina Ministers Alliance, Rose City Justice and the Portland Black Panthers, among others.

There have been complaints from local organisers that some are not there for the BLM movement or to support its goals, but simply for carnage.

Saturday saw right-wing group Patriot Prayer return to Portland. The group has faced allegations it is connected to the far-right and white nationalists, though its leader has denied the claims.

Is Antifa involved?

Antifa is a broad, loosely organised left-wing movement that includes self-described socialists, anarchists, communists and anti-capitalists. The group has faced accusations from President Donald Trump and others in the Republican Party of being a “terrorist” organisation.

While likely there are some people associated with Antifa at the protests, it is difficult to determine their level of involvement, given the loose nature of the organisation.

A protester carries an Antifascist Action flag at a rally following the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., May 31, 2020. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
A protester carries an Antifascist Action flag at a rally following the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Boston, Massachusetts [Brian Snyder/Reuters]

Facebook purged numerous accounts it claimed are linked to violence at protests on August 19. One of these groups, the Pacific Northwest Youth Liberation Front (PNWYLF), has been alleged to have links to Antifa by some on the political right.

PNWYLF has denied it organises protests, saying it serves as an information outlet.

Are things calming down?

No. Following the death of a Patriot Prayer member, other right-wing Trump supporters posted videos on social media that appear to show they plan to go to Portland. This could cause increased tension.

Trump, who is gaining in the polls on a “Law and Order” campaign for president, appeared to be encouraging his supporters to move into Portland in the wake of the shooting.

After the shooting, the president shared a video of his supporters driving into Portland and called those in Saturday’s caravan “GREAT PATRIOTS!”

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler asked those who wanted to come to Portland to “seek retribution” to stay away.

“If you’re from out of town and you’re reading something on social media – if you’re reading any facts on social media – they’re probably wrong because we don’t have all the facts yet,” Wheeler said. “This is not the time to get hotheaded because you read something on Twitter that some guy made up in his mother’s basement.”

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies