On Saturday, the 64th night of antifa riots in Portland, rioters wearing “PRESS” stickers on their clothes threw objects at police, including glass and plastic bottles. They also directed lasers at the eyes of officers (some officers have been blinded for days by these laser attacks). While the Portland Police did not mention fires or Molotov cocktails in its reports over the weekend, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) noted that rioters set fires near the federal courthouse on Saturday night and Sunday night and that a rioter threw a Molotov cocktail.
The group with “PRESS” stickers marched to the Penumbra Kelly building, which, among other things, houses the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office.
“The group stood blocking East Burnside Street, shined bright lights at Portland Police officers standing outside the building, directed lasers at the officers and eventually began throwing glass bottles at them. Vehicles blocked East Burnside Street from Northeast 47th Avenue to Northeast 50th Avenue,” Portland Police reported.
“A person in the crowd threw a glass jar or bottle filled with paint, which struck a Portland Police officer in the head. The officer was not injured.”
As police directed the rioters to move away from the building, the agitators kept lobbing “glass bottles and other objects” at police and at the building. Police declared the assembly unlawful and dispersed the crowd.
“People continued to throw glass and plastic bottles at police. People with ‘press’ written on their outer garments repeatedly threw objects at officers,” the police reported.
One of the rioters “moved a car slowly in front of police, interfering with their attempts to safely move people out of the road.” Police neutralized the vehicle by deflating its tires.
Local law enforcement arrested two people on charges of assaulting a public safety officer, disorderly conduct, and harassment, among other charges.
The mob later returned to the Penumbra Kelly building. “Again people with ‘press’ written on their outer garments were among those throwing objects at police.” Police did not use tear gas.
Andy Ngo, editor-at-large at The Post Millennial, said a source told him that “some people were handing out ‘PRESS’ stickers to rioters who attacked the SE Portland Police precinct last night. Several ‘press’ were seen throwing projectiles at officers.”
Source tells me that some people were handing out “PRESS” stickers to rioters who attacked the SE Portland Police precinct last night. Several “press” were seen throwing projectiles at officers. #PortlandRiots
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) August 3, 2020
Last month, Portland Police reported seeing “a number of people purporting to be ‘media’ or ‘press’ who are not.”
“I think that we are all able to document the police, and that makes you press in my mind,” one protester dressed as if for battle and wearing large “PRESS” stickers, told a freelance reporter on the ground in Portland.
PPB has seen a number of people purporting to be “media” or “press” who are not in recent weeks. This is concerning and takes away from legitimate media efforts. https://t.co/mAfxHwyASj
— Portland Police (@PortlandPolice) July 26, 2020
As the police noted, “this takes away from legitimate media efforts.” The First Amendment protects both freedom of speech and freedom of the press, as well as freedom of peaceable assembly and the freedom to petition the government. When rioters wear “PRESS” stickers to shield themselves from a police response while hurling objects at police, they undermine the legitimate interest that reporters have in documenting events.
Rioters who throw objects at the police while shielded by a false “PRESS” sticker are not “documenting the police” but attacking them. The First Amendment does not protect this kind of violence.
While federal officers made no arrests over the weekend, that does not mean there was no violence.
Federal officers made no arrests overnight in Portland but that doesn’t meant people were peaceful downtown. A Molotov cocktail & AR-15 was brought to the protest. A fire was started at the garage door of the federal courthouse. Rioters also shot paintballs at security cameras.
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) August 3, 2020
In the wee hours of Sunday morning, rioters lit stacks of papers and plywood on fire outside the fence protecting the federal courthouse. Rioters threw objects at federal officers as they tried to extinguish the fire. Rioters broke two windows at the federal building, DHS reported.
On Sunday night, police officers at the Penumbra Kelly building “heard chants indicating that the crowd wanted to enter the building and burn it down.” A rioter threw a Molotov cocktail at a federal building and a group of rioters set a fire at the garage door to the federal courthouse. During the evening, “an unknown number of rioters shot paintballs at courthouse security cameras. Others blocked the vehicle entrance to the Edith Green Federal Building and threw bottles at the windows.”
Local Democratic officials have insisted that the riots are “peaceful,” especially after most federal officers departed after Gov. Kate Brown (D-Ore.) agreed to use state troopers to defend federal property. While the riots appear to have become less violent, they still involve attempts at arson and attacks on police officers.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.