The powder keg lit by the police killing of a man in the Lents neighborhood Friday morning exploded in downtown Portland on Friday night.

Protesters who for nearly a year have demanded the defunding or abolition of the Portland Police Bureau responded to the fatal shooting by carving a trail of property destruction through downtown. The spree lasted into Saturday morning. They shattered windows of banks, restaurants and a church, wrote “No More History” on the Oregon Historical Society’s front entrance, and faced off with riot police in streets near the upscale Pioneer Place mall.

They also set fires—in dumpsters, in a portable toilet, and at a construction site outside the Apple Store.

A dumpster fire burns in downtown Portland on April 16, 2021. (Suzette Smith)
A dumpster fire burns in downtown Portland on April 16, 2021. (Suzette Smith)

The Apple Store fire burned for over 10 minutes until it seemed to threaten the office building above it. Portland police returned and cleared the streets for a fire truck to extinguish the blaze. Police said no one was injured in the fires.

The vandalism and fires, on a scale rarely seen in Portland even after a year of protests, were in part a response to the fatal shooting of a man by police in the Lents neighborhood of Southeast Portland on Friday morning. It is the first police killing in Portland since May of 2020, and the first by a Portland Police Bureau officer since 2019. Few details have been released about the shooting: Police say one officer fired a fatal shot after responding to a call about a man pointing a gun.

The scale of damage tonight recalled the riots last May following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, when Portlanders set fires in the Multnomah County Justice Center and looted downtown shops. But the dynamic has shifted in a year: While the May protests appeared to be a spontaneous outpouring of anguish following Floyd’s death, tonight’s acts were committed by a small group of strident and organized activists who use property destruction to avenge police violence and the City Hall policies they see as abetting it.

Windows of the First Republic Bank in downtown Portland are broken and spraypainted on April 16, 2021. (Justin Yau)
Windows of the First Republic Bank in downtown Portland are broken and spraypainted on April 16, 2021. (Justin Yau)

Following a tense daytime standoff in Lents Park, the scene of the police shooting, two protests took to the streets of downtown Portland as evening fell.

Approximately 150 people gathered around local Black organizer Demetria Hester for a candlelight vigil to mourn a 13-year-old shot by police in Chicago, Adam Toldeo. Hester led the gathering across the Hawthorne Bridge, and the demonstration ended quietly upon their return.

Demetria Hester (center, with microphone) leads a protest march in downtown Portland after a police shooting. (Suzette Smith)
Demetria Hester (center, with microphone) leads a protest march in downtown Portland after a police shooting. (Suzette Smith)

At the same time, another group of demonstrators assembled in Director Park. They marched through the downtown business area, breaking the windows at stores like Nike and banks like First Republic. They also smashed the front window of the Oregon Historical Society. After a brief standoff in which the Portland Police Bureau declared the assembly a riot shortly before midnight, protesters set dumpsters on fire along Southwest 4th Avenue.

Graffiti on the entrance of the Oregon Historical Society reads
Graffiti on the entrance of the Oregon Historical Society reads "No More History." (Suzette Smith)

Police said they made four targeted arrests of people suspected of committing crimes. Police described looting of stores, but that report could not be independently corroborated.

Police named three of the people they arrested on felony charges: Cameron Millar-Griffin, 24, Theodore O’Brien, 22, and Skye Sodja, 43. All three are from Portland.

Correction: This story incorrectly stated that a police officer had not killed someone in Portland since 2019. In fact, a Gresham police officer fatally shot a man in Portland on May 31, 2020. WW regrets the error.

Rapid Response team officers handcuff a person in downtown Portland during an arrest on April 16, 2021. (Justin Yau)
Rapid Response team officers handcuff a person in downtown Portland during an arrest on April 16, 2021. (Justin Yau)