Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler declared a state of emergency in Portland at about 3:50 am Saturday after what began as a peaceful night of protesting the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police turned into fires, property destruction and looting.
"Since Mr. Floyd's death, thousands of Americans and Portlanders have expressed their frustration in a peaceful and constructive manner," Wheeler said in his declaration. "Demonstrators have gathered in many cities to protest Mr. Floyd's death. Peaceful demonstrations are essential to our democratic system. Unfortunately, some individuals have engaged in unlawful and dangerous activity, including arson, rioting, looting, and damaging public and private property. These activities threaten the safety of lawful demonstrators, the surrounding communities, and first responders."
The state of emergency includes a curfew starting at 8 pm tonight, May 30, which prohibits anyone except first responders, the media, and people experiencing emergencies from being on the streets or traveling.
"All law enforcement, fire, medical personnel, and members of the news media are exempt from the curfew. Individuals traveling directly to and from work, seeking emergency care, fleeing dangerous circumstances, or experiencing homelessness are also exempt," the order says.
The move comes after a wild night in which protesters broke into the Multnomah County Justice Center, which serves both as the headquarters for the Portland Police Bureau and the downtown jail. They also set a Chase bank branch on fire, looted downtown stores, and destroyed numerous vehicles.
Police arrested 13 people on charges of rioting and theft. One officer and one Police Bureau criminalist were injured in the melee.
As the protests took place, an angry Wheeler spoke on the phone to KGW's Laural Porter. He acknowledged the right of Portlanders to take to the streets over what he referred to as the "murder" of Floyd, the Minneapolis man who died when a police officer knelt on his neck during an arrest. But Wheeler said the rioting and looting dishonored Floyd's memory and were out of step with the kind of protests that Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi advocated.
"We're better than this," Wheeler told KGW. Porter asked the mayor whether he would support the prosecution of those committing crimes during the riot.
"Damn right," Wheeler said.