Police use pepper spray, flash bang grenades during Portland May Day protest
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Hundreds of May Day marchers took to downtown streets Friday in what was initially a peaceful protest but turned violent after a splinter group left the main group.
One police officer was injured during the clashes with demonstrators, Portland police said. They also said there were no other injuries and no one was arrested.
Flash bang grenades exploded among protesters during a clash between protesters and police on Southwest Yamhill and 4th at about 7 p.m. That confrontation followed a clash at the base of the Burnside Bridge where police fired pepper spray into the crowd after they said protesters tried to force themselves onto the bridge.
Video from the flash-bang incident showed police retreating as protesters advanced on them. One officer rolled a flash bang grenade along the ground. It exploded, people ducked and the crowd scattered.
Police said protesters threw objects and chairs at officers.
A short time later, police said they fired "aerial diversion devices," which sounded like gunfire, to safely withdraw from the scene. About 100 to 150 protesters then gathered in the middle of the intersection. A short time later they left the area.
Meanwhile, peaceful demonstrators lined the street at nearby Pioneer Courthouse Square and held candles.
During the first standoff at the Burnside Bridge, police clad in riot gear and backed up by police on bicycles closed the bridge and told the crowd to clear the street. After about 20 minutes, the marchers moved on and police reopened the bridge
Initially police tweeted that they didn't use pepper spray on protesters at the Burnside Bridge but about five minutes later in a follow-up tweet, police said their information was delayed.
After the Burnside Bridge confrontation, the splinter of protesters group merged with the other protesters at Pioneer Courthouse Square about an hour before the second clash with police.
Police were seen stationed at other bridges, including the Morrison and the Hawthorne.
A permitted march, escorted by police, got underway at about 4:30 p.m. Before it started, organizers and protesters gathered at Shemanski Park at Southwest Park Avenue and Main Street.
The march was organized by the Portland Immigrant Rights Coalition, according to the Portland Police Bureau.
But just after 5 p.m. marchers left their planned route and headed northbound on 5th Avenue.
The planned route included streets Park Avenue, Salmon, Burnside, Southwest Broadway and Main Street.
An unpermitted "don't shoot" march left the campus of Portland State University after 2 p.m. Hundreds of protesters wound their way through the South Park Blocks to City Hall and the Multnomah County Courthouse before ending at Shemanski Park.
Marchers demanded justice and marched in solidarity for the people of Baltimore after riots erupted there this week when a man, Freddie Gray, died in police custody. A prosecutor there announced charges against six police officers on Friday.
The protesters in the unpermitted Portland march were peaceful, although they stopped traffic and tied up commuters along their route.
Salem May Day Rally
Labor groups, workers rights groups and immigrant activists gathered outside the Capitol for their May Day celebration. Gov. Kate Brown was on hand to speak to the crowd, saying whether they work in an office or in the field, their work was vital to the state.
"You are a perfect image of Oregon," Brown said. "You are lawyers, you are farm workers, you are teachers, you are business owners, you are parents and grandparents and you are children."
She told the crowd to share their stories with lawmakers in order to find new solutions, particularly on the issue of affordable housing, which is something Brown said everyone deserves.
The rally was peaceful, but things got a bit tense when the bomb squad had to be called in. While people were marching, someone found a backpack in the park next to the Capitol. State troopers didn't want to take any chances, so the bomb squad moved in. It sent a robot in to blow up the backpack. Throughout the whole thing the rally kept on going.
KATU's Bob Heye and Cory Marshall contributed to this story.