Crowds in Portland participated in illegal street racing and someone fired a gun into the air Saturday night during celebrations that broke out across the city after Joe Biden was projected as the winner of the 2020 presidential election.
Several dozen demonstrators also marched in front of a building occupied by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and chanted, “turn on the lights, come out and fight,” according to the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office. Officers shifted resources to the surrounding neighborhood by Elizabeth Caruthers Park and Macadam Ave. and were performing enhanced patrols Saturday night.
Before 9 p.m., officers responded to an illegal racing event in North Portland at the intersection of Northeast MLK and Columbia Blvd. that had blocked the intersection for about an hour. Officers came in from the south, and the sound truck made announcements telling those in the area to disperse, Sgt. Kevin Allen with the Unified Command, representing the Portland Police Bureau, Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, and the Oregon State Police said in the latest video update at 9:30 p.m.
Aerial footage captured by the Portland Police Air Support Unit showed fireworks being set off and dangerous driving by illegal speed racers before officers arrived and cleared the intersection.
Allen said responding to street racing activity is complex and dangerous, as attempts by officers to approach these groups in the past have been met with hostility and aggression.
Officers on Saturday developed a plan to safely clear cars and drivers, and, at some point, police said someone in the crowd fired a gun into the air. As police moved in, fireworks were being set off and rocks were being thrown in the officers’ direction, but no one was hurt, Allen said. There was one instance of vandalism reported to police by a driver whose car was damaged when people kicked in the door when he tried to leave the area.
In downtown Portland, law enforcement said a separate gathering near Pioneer Courthouse had been safe and celebratory before eventually winding down before 9:30 p.m. Police thanked participants for keeping the event safe.
Saturday’s celebrations appeared calmer in contrast to the widespread unrest that had carried on earlier in the week after polls initially closed on Election Day. Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, made the call to activate the Oregon National Guard in Portland Wednesday. The Unified Command declared a riot as crowds left a trail of destruction through the city, smashing businesses’ windows and throwing projectiles, including a firework, at officers. Crowds also blocked a fire station and street access for a medical unit responding to a call, causing emergency services to be rerouted.
A winner was not declared on election night and President Trump's lead in several key battleground states appeared to be dwindling as mail-in ballots continued to be counted. Several major news outlets, including the Fox News Decision Desk, did not project a victory for Biden until Saturday. The Trump campaign has vowed to continue legal fights on Monday.
The election-related violence was nothing new for Portland, which has witnessed nearly nightly demonstrations for about five months in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis while in police custody.