Riot declared as fire burns in Portland police union offices

PORTLAND, OREGON (AP) — A fire inside a police union building led authorities in Portland, Oregon, to declare a riot and force protesters away from the offices as violent demonstrations continue in the city that hoped for calm after federal agents withdrew more than a week ago.

A group of demonstrators broke into the Portland Police Association building, set the fire and were adding to it when officers made the riot declaration late Saturday, police tweeted. Video shot by a journalist shows smoke and flames arising from inside the building.

Several hundred people gathered outside the offices, which are located about eight kilometres north of the federal courthouse that had been the target of nightly violence earlier this summer. The Portland Police Association is a labour union that represents members of the Portland Police Bureau.

Live video showed multiple dumpster fires set near the building, less than half an hour after police tweeted that “criminal activities including, but not limited to, vandalism, unlawful entry to the building, or fire starting”, could be subject to arrest, the use of tear gas and/or crowd-control munitions.

Once the riot was declared — just after 11.30pm — officers formed a line and used flash bangs and smoke canisters to force the crowd away from the area.

Rallies were also held earlier in the afternoon and evening throughout the city, including at Peninsula, Laurelhurst and Berrydale parks, local media reported.

The gatherings this week had been noticeably smaller than the crowds of thousands who turned out nightly for about two weeks in July to protest the presence of United States (US) agents sent by the Trump administration to protect the federal courthouse downtown.

This week’s clashes, however, amped up tensions after an agreement between state and federal officials seemed to offer a brief reprieve.