May Day protests turn violent in Portland

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Portland descended into chaos again late Saturday and into Sunday even after the mayor had pledged earlier in the week to crack down on ‘anarchist mobs’ and ‘unmask’ them. 


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The mayor himself had received an apparent death threat in a voice-disguised, anonymous Twitter video Wednesday, just days after he promised to ‘take our city back’ from violent rioters and ‘hurt them a little bit.’

Two groups of radical protesters, who have throughout the past year represented Antifa and other far-left causes, were armed with weapons, body armor, shields and flares. The riots came as violent skirmishes occurred worldwide during so-called ‘May Day’ protests in favor of worker’s rights – but that descended into anarchist free-for-alls.

Police declared a riot and ordered the ‘protesters’ to disband. 

Late Saturday, two large groups – one about 30 to 50 people and another about 80 to 100 people – started their battle against law enforcement near the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in south Portland while the other blazed a path of destruction from Shemanski Park to a federal courthouse, Portland police said. 

They shattered windows and graffitied buildings of several businesses and government facilities, according to Portland police, who arrested five people including one man who’s accused of pulling a butterfly knife out on a cop. 

Outside the ICE facility, federal officers fired pepper ball rounds at the group, local TV station KATU reported. 

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For most of the day, protestors seemed to heed Mayor Ted Wheeler’s call for peaceful protests last week, with most of the gatherings throughout the  requiring ‘little or no police intervention,’ Portland police said. 

The protesters had gathered, they said, to support pro-worker policies and to rally to close the federal ICE facility in town. 

But by the night, the protests turned violent – and descended into rioting, a common occurrence in Oregon’s ‘City of Roses’ where racial justice and police violence demonstrations have raged the city since George Floyd’s death last May. 

The mayor’s call for peaceful protests also included combative words directed at the ‘anarchistic mob’ that has inflicted ‘criminal intimidation and violence’ on its streets over the past year.

Margaret Carter, the first black woman elected to the Oregon Legislative Assembly, told The New York Times, ‘Portland was a beautiful city.’ 

‘Now you walk around and see all the graffiti, buildings being boarded up. I get sick to my stomach. And I get angry,’ she told The Times.  

Wheeler’s April 23 press conference was an attempt to get the violence under control so the city can get back to normal. He gave police the OK to use all legal strategies including ‘kettling’, in which officers surround a crowd to keep it in a particular area, and crowdsourced surveillance. 

On Wednesday, less than a week after Wheeler’s remarks and three days before the ‘May Day’ protests, an anonymous Twitter user, who confessed to be an Antifa loyalist, aimed a death threat at the mayor that included his home address in the two-minute video, the Oregonian reported. 

‘Blood is already on your hands, Ted,’ said the video’s narrator, wearing a full-face mask and with an ‘Anonymous’-style altered voice. ‘The next time, it may just be your own.’

‘Ted, we are asking for the last time that you resign,’ the user said. ‘If you ignore this message outright, the destruction to your precious way of life is going to escalate … Window smashing and riots are a necessary escalation when those in power have proven that they are unwilling to listen.’

Jim Middaugh, a spokesman for Wheeler, told the Oregonian that the mayor and his office learned of the video Wednesday night declined but declined to comment further on the video but said the mayor’s office has seen a dramatic uptick in messages since his comments about cracking down. 

Middaugh said most of messages have been critical of Wheeler, with some claiming the mayor’s comments would encourage right-wing vigilantism while others said hardline approach was too-little, too-late, according to Oregonian. 

The FBI and Portland police are investigating the Twitter video threat made Wednesday. 

Meanwhile, Portland’s timeline of ‘May Day’ protests played out similarly in Oakland and the surrounding Bay area. 

During the day, May Day rallies were peaceful, but an anti-police demonstration in downtown Oakland on Saturday night turned violent and resulted in multiple arrests in connection with assaulting police officers and injuring a TV news employee, The Mercury News reported.

This was part of a worldwide movement, including Germany, France, Belgium, Italy, and Spain, where there were several dozen reported clashes with law enforcement. 

May Day mayhem: Dozens of police officers are injured after violent clashes with protestors defying lockdown rules during riots in Germany, France, Belgium, Italy and Spain for workers’ days 

Dozens of police officers were injured during mass protests in Germany, France, Belgium, Italy, and Spain, as May Day demonstrations turned violent. 

Around 30,000 protesters took to the streets during rallies in Berlin on Saturday, police said, adding at least 93 officers were injured as some of the demonstrations turned violent. Some 354 protesters were detained.     

Police fired water cannon and tear gas in a Brussels park to break up an anti-lockdown party of several hundred people designed to defy coronavirus social distancing rules.

Protests hit other European capitals too, most notably Paris, where police made 46 arrests as garbage bins were set on fire and the windows of a bank branch were smashed. 

Thousands also poured onto the streets of cities in Spain and Italy for the workers’ day protests in defiance of lockdown rules, resulting in violent clashes with police. 

Berlin’s head of police Barbara Slowik told local broadcaster rbb24: ‘The violent riots that occurred is something that I very much regret’.

More than 20 different rallies took place in the German capital on Saturday and the vast majority of them were peaceful. 

However, a leftist march of 8,000 people through the city’s Neukoelln and Kreuzberg neighborhood, which has often seen clashes in past decades, turned violent.  

‘Violence against police officers and a blind, destructive rage has nothing to do with political protest,’ Berlin state interior minister Andreas Geisel said.

Geisel condemned the throwing of bottles and rocks and the burning barricades on the streets and especially the violence toward police saying, ‘The high number of injured officer leaves me stunned. I wish all of those who were injured in the line of duty a quick recovery.

Some injuries occurred after some demonstrators threw fireworks, bottles and rocks during protests over social inequality. About 5,600 police were deployed, and some responded with pepper spray.  

Police used water cannon to extinguish fires as protesters set ablaze waste bins, barricades and cars.

Demonstrations also took place in several other German cities, including Hamburg and Leipzig, despite Europe’s largest economy grappling with a third wave of the pandemic.

The demonstrations were the second May Day protests since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Turnout was much higher than last year, even though social distancing requirements remain in place.

There’s a nightly curfew in most parts of Germany currently because of the high number of coronavirus infections. But political protests and religious gatherings are exempt from the curfew. 

In Belgium, police responded to a crowd of mostly young people in Brussel’s Bois de la Cambre park, who were attending la Boum (the party), an event that had begun as an April Fool’s joke. 

The follow-up Boum 2 event on May 1, a traditional day for demonstrations, was held a week before the Belgian government allows cafe and bar terraces to open and lets groups of more than four people meet outside in a relaxation of COVID-19 rules. 

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo urged Belgians on Friday to stay united and not ‘fall into this trap’. Facebook also took down the Boum 2 post on Thursday after a request from Belgian prosecutors, who warned partygoers they risked being detained or fined

Police said several hundred people still attended.

Emile Breuillot, a 23-year-old dental student, said he had come to see people enjoy themselves and to defend their rights to gather.

After a calm start with groups chanting ‘freedom’, the police announced on social media that attendees were not observing public safety measures and that they would intervene. Many people were not wearing masks, a requirement anywhere in public in the Belgian capital.

Hundreds of people also marched in central Brussels and through the eastern city of Liege demanding a relaxation of coronavirus measures.      

There were 18 arrests in the French capital by mid-afternoon, with disturbances breaking out along the route of an organized march.

‘Tear gas is being used to restore order, but the attacks are ongoing,’ said an officer at the scene. ‘Organized gangs are specifically targeting officers.’

France is currently under lockdown because of the Coronavirus pandemic, but this did not stop trade unions and other organizations encouraging protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s administration.

There were chants of ‘Macron resign’ as the march rallied thousands between Republic and Nation squares on Saturday afternoon.

Youths wearing black balaclavas and brandishing metal bars were seen smashing shop and bank windows. 

There were regular anti-Macron riots every Saturday in Paris before the Coronavirus crisis, most of them organized by the so-called Yellow Vests movement.

Named after their high-viz jackets, they caused millions of euros worth of damage around the Champs Elysee and other major tourist attractions.

Major acts of vandalism even saw the Arc de Triomphe itself being ransacked, while police had their weapons stolen nearby.

Mounted officers, water cannons, and armored vehicles capable of spreading high-intensity gas were all used in weekly security operations.

The Vests were joined by extremists from the far Right and the ultra-Left, as well as anarchists intent on causing as much damage as possible.

They forced crisis-ridden Mr Macron to climb down on imposing green surcharges, and he also increased the national minimum wage by seven per sent, and scrapped tax on bonuses, in response to the trouble.  

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