Law & the Courts

Portland Police Quickly Shut Down ‘Autonomous Zone’ Outside Mayor’s House

Rioters confront police in Portland, Ore., June 13, 2020. (Terray Sylvester/Reuters)

Portland police on Thursday quickly dismantled an “autonomous zone” that protesters attempted to set up outside the mayor’s residence in the city the previous night.

Protesters on Wednesday night used items including dumpsters and stolen construction materials to build an “autonomous zone” in Portland’s Pearl District near an apartment building where Mayor Ted Wheeler reportedly lives. They put up barricades and set up tents in the North Park Blocks area.

“Right around midnight we started to see shift in activity where different items were being brought in and barricades were being created,” said Portland Police Bureau Lieutenant Tine Jones.

One person was arrested when police dispersed the protesters early Thursday morning, but protesters left without police employing tear gas or rubber bullets.

“I do not want an autonomous zone set up in Portland,” the mayor said. “I’m watching what’s happening in Seattle, and I’m not impressed. I think it’s a distraction from the larger movement, and the movement is justice for black people.”

The attempt by demonstrators in Portland was likely inspired by protesters in Seattle, who have taken over a section of the city and set up the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), recently renamed the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP). Police have said they will not respond to calls from inside the zone unless they are life-threatening.

The Portland protesters reportedly explained that they set up the zone because a City Council meeting Wednesday evening failed to meet their demands, voting to cut only about $16 million from the police budget rather than the $50 million protesters demanded.

Both peaceful protests and riots have broken out in metropolitan areas across the country in response to the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Protesters have called for action on police reform and in some cases defunding police departments altogether.

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