City of Portland Urges Building Owners to Hide Dumpsters Ahead of Anticipated Civil Unrest

“As you have likely seen with other recent protest activity in Portland, dumpsters have been set afire in many places.”

A Portland protester builds a flaming barricade out of dumpsters and recycling bins in September 2020. (Alex Wittwer)

As Oregon braces for protests beginning this weekend and leading up to the presidential inauguration Jan. 20, the city of Portland made a specific request to building owners: Hide your dumpsters.

"As you have likely seen with other recent protest activity in Portland, dumpsters have been set afire in many places," Bureau of Development Services spokesman Ken Ray said in a statement Friday. "As a precautionary measure, the city of Portland requests commercial building owners and managers to keep dumpsters closed and locked. It is requested that dumpsters be moved indoors or to another secure location if possible."

The bureau also asked businesses to keep A-frame signs indoors "as a precaution against their potential use as projectiles during protest activity."

As the bureau pointed out in its statement, dumpsters can also be used as barricades to impede the flow of traffic. Such barricades were erected during protests in 2020 around the Portland Police Bureau's North Precinct, for example. In some instances, protesters have lit fires inside of dumpsters.

The inauguration is expected to generate civil unrest in both Portland and Salem, elected officials say. For example, Gov. Kate Brown gave the green light Jan. 13 for the Oregon National Guard to assist the Oregon State Police at the state Capitol building.

Ahead of potential unrest, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt and Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell called for civility among Portlanders.

"As the presidential inauguration nears, I want to reassure Multnomah County that our public safety system stands ready to confront any violence and property destruction," Schmidt said Jan. 15. "We continue to be dismayed by the harmful rhetoric we are hearing, and we reject the violence and divisiveness permeating throughout the country."

Lovell said Jan. 14 that, for now, there are no known specific threats to Portland.

"I am aware there is heightened concern in the community related to local reaction to the coming presidential inauguration," Lovell said. "This community is tired of the wanton destruction of public and private property and the violence and intimidation we've seen acted out in the name of protest or hate. This is criminal behavior and we are committed to holding those who perpetrate these acts accountable."

"I hope that you will join with me, even before the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, in making the coming days ones of peace," Lovell continued. "We can love and support each other as brothers and sisters in spite of differences."

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