PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Protesters overturned statues of former Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln in Portland on Sunday night in a declaration of “rage” toward Columbus Day.
Protest organizers dubbed the event "Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage,” in response to Monday's federal holiday named after 15th-century Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, a polarizing figure who Native American advocates have said spurred centuries of genocide against indigenous populations in the Americas.
The group threw chains around Roosevelt's statue, officially titled “Theodore Roosevelt, Rough Rider," which is located in the South Park blocks. They threw red paint on the monument and began using a blowtorch on the statue's base, news outlets reported.
Police said the crowd used a vehicle to topple the statue just before 9 p.m.
The group later turned their attention toward Lincoln’s statue, pulling it down about eight minutes later.
Historians have said Roosevelt expressed hostility toward Native Americans, once saying: “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of every 10 are.”
Protesters spray-painted “Dakota 38” on the base of Lincoln's statue, referencing the 38 Dakota men Lincoln approved to have hanged after the men were involved in a violent conflict with white settlers in Minnesota.
After toppling the statues, the crowd began smashing windows at the Oregon Historical Society and later moved onto the Portland State University Campus Public Safety office.
Police said at least three lit flares were thrown into the structure in an apparent attempt to start fires. The flares went out before causing significant damage.
Protesters continued south to the Portland State University Campus Public Safety office, located at Southwest Broadway and Southwest Montgomery Street. Police said numerous windows were shattered.
Police later declared the event a riot and ordered the group to disperse. Police said anyone involved in “criminal behavior, including vandalism” was subject to arrest.
To those marching downtown: this has been declared a RIOT. All persons must immediately disperse to the NORTH. Failure to adhere to this order may subject you to arrest, citation, or crowd control agents, including, but not limited to tear gas and impact weapons.— Portland Police (@PortlandPolice) October 12, 2020
According to police, the crowd continued to commit acts of destruction. People in the crowd broke windows and graffitied businesses including a jewelry store, restaurants, coffee shop, bank and a phone store.
Police said a restaurant in the 1400 block of Southwest Park Avenue had at lest two bullets fired through the front windows, which lodged into the back wall.
Officers moved in and dispersed the crowd.
Three people were arrested overnight, including a man who was armed with a loaded pistol and the driver of the vehicle used to pull down the Roosevelt statue.
Police said more arrests and charges are possible.
The following people were booked into the Multnomah County Jail:
- Malik Muhamad, 23, of Portland, charged with six counts of first-degree criminal mischief, riot, unlawful possession of a firearm, and possession of a loaded firearm in public (city code).
- Justin Bowen, 25, of Portland, charged with two counts of fourth-degree assault and unlawful use of pepper spray.
- Brandon Bartells, 38, of Washington, charged with first-degree criminal mischief and reckless endangering.
The Multnomah County District Attorney's Office said Muhamad used a metal baton to smash out windows at the Oregon Historical Society, Portland State University and other businesses. He is now facing one count of riot, along with his other charges.
Court documents state officers found a pistol behind barrels that Muhamad used to hide behind, as well as a loaded pistol magazine in his pocket that matched the pistol located behind the barrels.
Investigators said Muhamad has been living in Washington and has attended multiple violent demonstrations in Portland over the past few months, according to court documents.