As Portland’s riots spiraled out of control yet again Thursday night, a striking new battleground is developing between protesters who are lighting fires and residents who try to put them out.
Police in the Oregon city documented two separate instances Thursday of two elderly women attempting to extinguish fires and being confronted by unruly protesters, many clad in apocalyptic all-black uniforms with helmets and goggles.
One of the women, who was using a walker to get around, was splattered with paint by the protesters, police said.
It’s a scene local officials said they’ve seen frequently in recent days, as peaceful protesters try to regain control of a movement that they lost control of last month, amid attacks on the federal courthouse in the city’s downtown.
Those attacks have calmed, but the violence has now shifted to the city’s east, where protesters gather each night and pick a target — usually a building associated with local law enforcement — then try to smash their way into it, police said.
On Thursday, protesters targeted a Portland Police Bureau precinct, which is where the confrontations between the elderly women and protesters took place, police said.
Police also faced lasers being shone in their eyes, paint and rocks thrown at them, and commercial grade fireworks launched at them.
“Throughout the night, several people in the crowd with ‘press’ affixed to their persons taunted officers. These people shined lights and lasers in officer’s eyes, as well as threw eggs and rocks at officers,” Portland police said.
Local officials had initially blamed the presence of federal law enforcement for the violent riots, but this week Mayor Ted Wheeler acknowledged the violence has continued even after the feds pulled took a lower profile.
In a stunning online press conference Thursday, ahead of the latest clashes, Mr. Wheeler urged peaceful protesters to stay home or else risk being tainted by the violent elements.
And he made a base political appeal, saying the worse the violence, the more likely it is that President Trump wins reelection.
“Don’t think for a moment that if you are participating in this activity that you are not being a prop for the reelection campaign for Donald Trump, because because you absolutely are,” he said in a press conference conducted online. “You are creating the b-roll film that will be used in ads nationally to help Donald Trump during his campaign. You don’t want to be part of that, they don’t show up.”