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Portland Uprising Against Police Killings Continues, Now Joined by Damian Lillard

Lillard’s presence and a dance party were the latest signs of how ingrained in the civic fabric a protest against police has become.

In what has now become a nightly tradition, thousands of demonstrators marched from Southeast Portland into downtown on Thursday, as national protests against the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis stretched into their second week.

But the seventh night of marching was distinguished by the presence of the most famed and popular man in Oregon: basketball superstar Damian Lillard.

The Trail Blazers star, dressed in sweatpants and a gray Malcolm X shirt, a teal face mask slung around his neck, stood at the front of the throng, linking arms with protesters as they traveled west across the Morrison Bridge chanting, "Black lives matter!" and reciting Floyd's name.

Lillard is the latest in a string of NBA players to join the anti-police brutality protests across the country. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson marched in Oakland, Calif., last night, while former Blazer Enes Kanter joined protests in Boston earlier this week.

Otherwise, Thursday looked a lot like Wednesday: placid, carefully arranged, and given a wide berth by Portland police, who appeared loath to receive the negative attention that comes with a show of force.

Across the country, police officers have been caught on camera brutalizing protesters who object to the killing of Floyd by Minneapolis police on May 25. Portland police are under scrutiny for their use of tear gas and stun grenades on Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday nights.

Shortly after 7, protesters marched across the Morrison Bridge, using that causeway for a second consecutive evening. Police not only allowed them passage, they asked protesters politely on social media to give room for a car that had gotten stuck in the crowd. A Portland Fire & Rescue boat in the Willamette River hailed the marchers with a jet of water in the air, intended as a show of support. Few people on the bridge appeared to notice or care.

Loudspeakers were erected in Tom McCall Waterfront Park, and people danced and sang to Kendrick Lamar's "Alright." Lillard's presence and the dance party were the latest signs of how ingrained in the civic fabric a protest against police has become, just six nights after rioters set fires in a downtown courthouse.

But as with each evening, the night would not be resolved until police and protesters decided whether they wished to confront each other—which happens nightly after dark.

In a nod to that ongoing conflict—and a debate over the method and aims of previous marches—organizers tonight told the crowd they would no longer be referring to the actions as "peaceful protests" but as "nonviolent resistance." While that change might seem like semantics, it speaks to a growing belief among activists that only violence by police will shock Americans out of supporting officers.

"Nonviolent resistance!" the crowd chanted along the waterfront, as the last light fell.