The Portland May Day March earlier turned into a fiery riot as protesters shattered business windows, set bonfires in the streets and vandalized a police car in downtown Portland on Monday afternoon.
The city has given a permit to the march that was expected to feature impassioned but peaceful rhetoric but the demonstration was taken over by black-clad protesters and defined by violent fires and deliberate damage to property. An hour and a half into the march, the police already declared the gathering as a riot instead. The officers then used flash-bang grenades to break out the crowd after they declared the march to be illegal.
25 demonstrators were eventually arrested. Most of those arrested were facing second-degree disorderly conduct, and riot for a couple of others who are minors. The ages of those arrested vary from three under 18, to 19, some in their 20s, 30s and up to early 40s. Some were also given additional charges of assaulting an officer, interfering with a peace officer, and resisting arrest. The three minors, two 17-year-olds and one 14-year old were released to their parents while the rest of the adults arrested were jailed.
May 1 is celebrated globally as International Workers' Day from as far as The Philippines to Paris where workers normally demand better working conditions. The holiday has expanded its focus in the U.S. to include support for immigrants.
The rally in Portland began in the afternoon in the South Park Blocks, where speakers addressed about 1,000 people at Shemanski Park, while a group of anarchists was gathered at a distance holding microphones. Speakers asked the crowd to support workers' rights and unions including one Somali, Muslim woman who asked the crowd to fight racism and Islamophobia. Some black-clad demonstrators also burned small American flags.
Marchers then proceeded to walk peacefully even past City Hall and the west side of the Justice Center but things turned violent as some people in the crowd began throwing rocks and full soda cans at police while the marchers moved north on Southwest 2nd Avenue.
The police said after the riots that among the items thrown at them included fireworks, road flares, and smoke bombs. Some of the anarchists also threw at least one Molotov cocktail at officers but did not hit them. Police then declared the gathering as unlawful and warned that any marchers who would remain in the streets would face arrest. Police said they had to declare the supposed march a riot because the protesters vandalized a police car, were attacking police officers and were vandalizing and damaging property. Damage included shattered or broken windows at the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse, City Hall, J. Crew, Brooks Brothers, Target, Gus J. Solomon U.S. Courthouse building and Michael Parsons Fine Arts gallery.
Portland Police Chief Mike Marshman said the actions of the violent law breakers, unfortunately, undermined and covered up the message of the law-abiding individuals who worked to get their message across on May Day peacefully.