Enormous Crowds Converge in Pioneer Courthouse Square as Portland Protests Enter Sixth Night

The throng that held a “die-in” on the Burnside Bridge stretched from one bridgehead to the other.

As they entered their sixth night, protests against police killings swelled into the largest numbers the city has yet seen—crowds in the thousands, so large they couldn't all fit into the square known as Portland's Living Room.

Groups arrived in Pioneer Courthouse Square from across the city, on the first night after Mayor Ted Wheeler lifted a citywide curfew. The throng that held a "die-in" on the Burnside Bridge—lying down on the pavement—stretched from one bridgehead to the other. It took 15 minutes for that group to stream off the bridge into downtown. And that was just a portion of the people arriving in the square.

The crowds chanted the names of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, black people killed by police officers. As speakers talked in the square, other large crowds shouting, "Black lives matter!" could be heard arriving.

The enormous crowds arrived four nights after rioters set fires in the Multnomah County Justice Center and looted downtown shops. People arrived with similar goals—demanding widespread reform and defunding of police—but different tactics.

A group of volunteers handed out the typical protests supplies—free bottles of water and ibuprofen—but also gave away hand sanitizer, in a nod to the pandemic, and jugs of eye wash, as a preparation for tear gas.

And the tensions over whether to confront police officers could be seen as the evening went on, along with concern about what the police would do.

In the square, people told stories about loved ones who had died at the hands of police officers. Other speakers talked about racial discrimination they've faced since before they were born. An African American lawyer was on a nightly jog and stopped to speak to the crowd. "The people are tired," said the lawyer, who gave his name as William, "but they're not asleep."

An offshoot group left the protest at sundown and headed south—for the chain-link fence police have used to cordon off 16 blocks of downtown around the courthouses.

Police deployed at least four stun grenades and tear gas to drive those protesters away from the fence, although most of the protesters had kept their distance. Then riot police moved westward, creating a larger barrier around the Park Blocks.

The sound of the flash-bangs boomed four blocks away in Pioneer Courthouse Square. A speaker shouted "Peaceful!" and asked the demonstrators to hold their fists in the air.

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