Portland Protesters Briefly Seize a Freeway, but Police Refrain From Using More Force

March organizers had clearly planned it ahead of time. Lanes and exits were already secured, with cars blocking lanes of traffic to protect protesters.

On Portland's first evening under a new police chief, demonstrators against police brutality and racism debuted a new tactic: They walked onto a freeway.

A crowd of thousands took over both directions of Interstate 84 during Monday's march in the uprising against police officers killing black people, Portland's 11th consecutive night of mass protest.

Later in the night, another crowd of hundreds assembled outside the Multnomah County Justice Center, ready to test the tactics of newly sworn Chief Chuck Lovell, the fourth black man to lead the Portland Police Bureau. Credit a steady rain or new officer restraint, but police fired only a few projectiles, and the protesters filed home by midnight.

For the first day in some time, the defining image Monday was not police use of force. Instead, it was the highway takeover.

On Monday afternoon, a crowd massed in the park adjacent to Revolution Hall, and after what was probably the city's largest mass yoga class ever, marched north toward Northeast 15th Avenue and Alberta Street. But a surprise detour down the little-known onramp behind Benson High School took the crowd onto the eastbound side of I-84.

Marchers followed enthusiastically, chanting, "Stay together, stay tight!"

The change in route was a surprise to protesters—and to the Portland Police Bureau, which expressed consternation on social media—but march organizers had clearly planned it ahead of time. Lanes and exits were already secured, with cars blocking lanes of traffic to protect protesters. Maybe 100 yards of marching on the freeway later, a crew of motorcycles whipped by on the westbound side of the freeway, beeping with fists in the air. It was a signal: That side was also safe for marching.

People clambered over the low wall dividing the two sides. Oh, and those green markers that top the wall? Strangely pliable and much softer than they look.

"Whose streets? Our streets!" reverberated off the walls of the 20th Avenue overpass. And a song new to this reporter's ears: "We gonna march, we gonna march, we gonna march for freedom, for Tamir Rice, for Breonna."

The protest exited at Northeast 33rd Avenue and made its way to Alberta Street, where the chant "Fuck gentrification!" elicited uncomfortable frowns from people standing on their front porches, who nevertheless held their fists high.

At the intersection outside the Alberta Co-op, organizers set up a makeshift stage in the back of a pickup truck. One speaker, 77-year-old Kent Ford, said he was a founding member of the Portland chapter of the Black Panther Party. He exhorted the crowd to keep demanding change.

"It's not going to come from D.C.," Ford said. "It's not going to come from the Capitol. It's going to come from down here on the streets."