The mayor of Portland has claimed that protesters were “attempting to commit murder” after some demonstrators started a fire outside the Police Bureau’s East Precinct building.
On Wednesday, during another night of Black Lives Matter protests in Portland, Oregon, some demonstrators started a fire outside the police building while officers were still inside, but it was quickly put out.
Speaking at a virtual press conference on Thursday, mayor Ted Wheeler criticised the protesters who started the fire and said he will not “tolerate” similar actions during future demonstrations.
“When you commit arson with an accelerant in an attempt to burn down a building that is occupied by people who you have intentionally trapped inside, you are not demonstrating, you are attempting to commit murder,” Mr Wheeler said.
“I believe that city staff could have died last night. I cannot and I will not tolerate that. This is not peaceful protests. This is not advocacy to advance reforms,” the mayor added.
Black Lives Matter protests have been taking place in Portland for the last two months, following the death of unarmed African American George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.
Chuck Lovell, the chief of police of the Portland Police Bureau, added during the mayor’s press conference that violent actions are not “forwarding the goals” of the Black Lives Matter movement.
He said the violence is not going “to lead to better outcomes for people of colour,” and added that “this movement is very powerful and I feel like the violence has taken away from it in a really kind of concerning way.
“I think it’s really dependent on Portland as a community to really say we’re not going to tolerate this.”
Protesters and police have clashed at numerous demonstrations in Portland since Mr Floyd’s death, as residents are calling for reform of the police department, and tensions were exacerbated when president Donald Trump deployed federal officers in the city last month.
The clashes with federal agents have been amplified by some Republicans, including ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee Jim Jordan, in an attempt to delegitimise the purpose of the movement.
In reference to the fire that was started outside the precinct on Wednesday, Mr Wheeler said: “Don’t think for a moment that if you are participating in this activity, you are not being a prop for the reelection campaign of Donald Trump – because you absolutely are.”
He added: “If you don’t want to be part of that, then don’t show up.”
Mr Wheeler joined the protest late last month after the federal agents were deployed, and he told crowds that he was there “to stand with you no matter what”.
The mayor told the demonstrators: “We don’t want them here,” and added: “They’re not properly trained to be here. And we’re asking them right at this moment, we’re demanding that they leave.
“We demand that the federal government stop occupying our city.”
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