July 24, 2021

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Police detain more than 100 Portland protesters in apparent kettling – OregonLive

4 min read

Portland police detained a crowd of over 100 protesters during a Friday night demonstration, stemming a march only minutes after it began.

The mass detainment was an apparent use of kettling, a police tactic of surrounding a crowd and containing people within a perimeter. Police told the crowd they were detaining everyone within the boundary for the “investigation of a crime” but did not specify the nature of the alleged crime.

Demonstrators initially gathered in the Pearl District about 8:30 p.m. and started marching roughly a half-hour later. Police threatened to arrest protesters minutes after the march started, saying those walking in the street were blocking traffic and would be subject to arrest, citation or crowd control munitions if they didn’t move.

Police announced about 9:20 p.m. they were setting up a perimeter around the group and detaining everyone. Police said the detention was “temporary” and that they would remove demonstrators “one at a time.”

Meanwhile, a crowd gathered outside the perimeter, chanting “let them go” and slogans decrying police.

In once incident at roughly 10 p.m., videographer CarissaDez captured livestream footage of Portland police pepper spraying two people outside the perimeter who were confronting police about the detentions.

About 10:15 p.m., police began releasing legal observers and members of the press one by one. Lawyers also posted social media reminders of protesters’ rights and resources.

Several live-streamers and independent journalists said they were released, police made them give their name and birthdate, wrote the information on a piece of duct tape and gave it to each person to place on their chest. Police then photographed each person as they were leaving, requiring them to remove their masks.

Around 11:10 p.m., police appeared to arrest at least one person. It was not clear why the person was arrested.

According to people posting on social media from the scene, at about 11:30 p.m., a group of four police officers grabbed and pepper sprayed a protester who was carrying a boom box, and took away the speakers. It was not immediately clear why they pepper sprayed the person.

As of midnight, there were still dozens of protesters inside the perimeter.

Independent journalist Laura Jedeed reported that one person who was standing on the sidewalk was arrested shortly before midnight.

Videographers documenting the protest said police followed demonstrators from the beginning of the march, which lasted less than 15 minutes.

Adam Costello, a livestream videographer, said two windows were broken during the early stages of the protest. Costello suspected that may have prompted police to set up the perimeter.

A police spokesperson declined to describe the nature of the alleged crime under investigation.

The kettling of Portland protesters most recently garnered attention in January after two federal judges either dismissed or recommended throwing out civil suits, including one filed by the ACLU of Oregon, that challenged the police practice.

The cases, which stemmed from June 2017 demonstrations in downtown Portland, were thrown out despite heavy objection from community members to the tactic — and a critical report from Portland’s police review office.

Mayor Ted Wheeler, who serves as police commissioner, said in January he doesn’t like how police have used the tactic during his tenure, but he didn’t say the practice should be banned.

“If kettling is to be used as a technique it has to be well-planned and well-trained for,” he told The Oregonian/OregonLive.

“What I think we should do is have an open conversation with all of our law enforcement partners and legislative leaders about which tools are appropriate and how to best use them,” he said. “I’m not saying kettling should be off the table, but I think we should have a conversation about how we should use it as a tool and use it appropriately should we decide to use it.”

The mass detentions marked the second night in a row that police responded forcefully to protesters in Portland.

On Thursday night, federal officers deployed tear gas at a group of a few dozen protesters who had gathered at the Hatfield U.S. Courthouse. Some protesters were continuing efforts from earlier in the day, when they protested against an oil pipeline

Police detained at least one person during that protest.

Juniper Simonis, an environmental biologist who studies the effects of chemical agents on protesters, went to the scene of the protest Friday morning, and reported that they found spent canisters of HC gas.

HC gas is a toxic and potentially deadly smoke grenade that Portland police deployed more than two dozen times over the summer as they tried to disperse protesters.

“HC” stands for hexaclorotethane, a common ingredient in smoke devices that the Environmental Protection Agency has classified as a likely carcinogen.

This report will be updated.

—Jayati Ramakrishnan; 503-221-4320; jramakrishnan@oregonian.com; @JRamakrishnanOR

Maxine Bernstein and Kale Williams of The Oregonian/OregonLive contributed to this report.

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