PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - Mayor Ted Wheeler had strong words for rioters who blocked exits and started a fire at the Portland Police Bureau’s East Precinct building.
“When you commit arson with an accelerant in an attempt to burn down a building that is occupied by people who you have intentionally trapped inside, you are not demonstrating, you are attempting to commit murder,” Wheeler said during an online press conference Thursday.
On Wednesday night, a riot was declared at the Portland Police Bureau location on the 700 block of Southeast 106th Avenue.
Doors were broken, projectiles and fireworks were thrown at officers and rioters disabled security cameras. Tear gas and crowd control munitions were used by police to disperse the crowd.
“I believe that city staff could have died last night. I cannot and I will not tolerate that. This is not peaceful protests. This is not advocacy to advance reforms,” Wheeler said.
Police Chief Chuck Lovell and Lt. Damon Simmons with Portland Fire & Rescue also spoke Thursday.
Simmons said using fire as a weapon is “completely unacceptable” and described being at the scene of an unrelated deadly fire that involved a woman being trapped inside and burned alive.
“This is not a peaceful action,” Simmons said.
Simmons said he supports the Black Lives Matter movement, but pleaded with anyone committing violence to stop.
“Hurting people and trying to trap people in a building and burn them up, it’s just completely awful,” Simmons said.
Wheeler said police responding to situations like the one that unfolded Wednesday night keeps officers away from other crimes, as crime rates reach record levels in the city.
There were 99 shootings in Portland in July, compared to 35 during the same month last year. During all of 2019 there were 388 shootings in Portland. This year there have already been 366.
Wheeler said he doesn’t expect violent protests to stop, but urged non-violent demonstrators who don’t want to be part of planned violence to stay away.
“We anticipate additional planned attacks on occupied public buildings over the next few days,” Wheeler said.
The East Precinct building is in the area of a residential neighborhood. People living nearby told FOX 12 it's frustrating and frightening to have it all happening so close to their homes.
"If they're looting and burning things this close, what is to prevent them from moving in our direction?" said Alan Cushway.
"It made me angry that they were here in our neighborhood causing trouble and going after the police precinct," said Barb Cushway.
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