Police clash with protesters outside bank - KPTV - FOX 12

49 arrests made during N17 protests

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Portland police arrested 25 protesters who sat down on the ramp to the Steel Bridge during the morning rush hour. Portland police arrested 25 protesters who sat down on the ramp to the Steel Bridge during the morning rush hour.
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

A sit-in protest on the Steel Bridge and a bank-to-bank march in downtown Portland Thursday  led to 49 arrests in a hectic day on the city's streets.

Occupy Portland and N17 protesters last marched to a Chase Bank branch, across from Pioneer Courthouse Square, where Portland police could be seen trying to clear the entrance area of protesters.

Police confirm pepper spray was used as they tried to gain control of the escalating situation. A spokesman says 15 arrests were made outside the Chase Bank branch.

FOX 12 captured video of one woman being hit in the face by the pepper spray.

"We just started smelling it and then I heard people saying, 'Pepper spray has been sprayed!'" said Elmira Rodriguez, who spoke with FOX 12 on camera. "Then, just seconds after that, my skin started burning and I covered my eyes."

Demonstrators say the situation became tense as officers tried to move the crowds from Yamhill just ahead of rush hour.

"You could feel that something was going to happen," said Rodriguez.  "You could see riot police getting increasingly frustrated."

"They gave them every opportunity to clear the sidewalk," said Shane Argyle who watched the situation while working downtown.

"The officers are just doing their job," said Argyle.  "My hat is off to Chief Reese, all the police officers did an awesome job restraining themselves."

Prior to that, protesters sat in front of a Bank of America branch on Southwest Second Avenue and Morrison Street, blocking the entrance, and several protesters went inside a Wells Fargo bank building in downtown Portland. 

Police say nine arrests were made at Wells Fargo on 5th Avenue for criminal trespassing in the second degree.

Meanwhile, outside the bank, protesters were seen lowering an American flag and then raising it upside down. They also raised an Occupy the Banks flag. Once police made the arrests, the group marched on and continued to other banks.

A sign at a nearby Bank of America branch on Main Street read, "Due to circumstances out of our control, we are currently closed."

While the protesters were disruptive, Portland police Lt. Robert King says there were no serious injuries.  A spokesman says he believes one man was transported during the incident at Chase Bank, after somehow falling down.

"We've been at this for a month and I think we've become increasingly proficient at managing these large-scale events," King says of the police bureau.

The protest was part of N17, a movement named for Nov. 17 that planned a mass mobilization to forcibly disrupt banking activity with non-violent civil disobedience. A spokesperson for the group said they are part of the Occupy Portland movement.

"The group is autonomous.  People will do what they want, but the collective as a whole remained largely peaceful," said demonstrator Todd Herman.

The group has been holding demonstrations for several weeks, which some say could be draining the police bureau's resources.

On Thursday, Portland Police Chief Mike Reese says it took officer three hours to get to a rape victim because of Thursday's protests.

The downtown marches followed the Steel Bridge sit-in during the morning rush hour. Police say 25 people were arrested there.

Police first shut down the Steel Bridge in the early-morning hours, closing it to all cars, pedestrians and bicycle traffic after growing concerns protesters from Occupy Portland would try to block and interfere with bridge operations, police said. Because transit and first responders use the route, there was a safety concern to the public, Sgt. Pete Simpson said.

SLIDESHOW: More than a dozen arrests made on Steel Bridge

Angus Maguire, a spokesman for the group We Are Oregon, says the Steel Bridge sit-in included union workers, Occupy Portland activists, the unemployed and other community supporters.

After facing off with police for about 45 minutes, the protesters turned away from the main portion of the bridge and headed for the lower deck, used by pedestrians and bicyclists. They then crossed to the city's west side for the Waterfront Park rally.

No injuries or use of force was reported during the morning arrests. The 25 people who were taken into custody are expected to be charged with disorderly conduct.

RAW VIDEO: Protesters hoist 'Occupy Banks' flag

SLIDESHOW: The eviction of Occupy Portland

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