The protest: Demonstration turns violent outside political fund-raiser
JOSEPH ROSE, MAXINE BERNSTEIN and PATRICK HARRINGTON
Police used pepper spray and shot rubber bullets to disperse a protest that turned violent Thursday as local Republicans arriving for a political fund-raiser headlined by President Bush attempted to make their way through demonstrators.
Police acknowledged they had made no provision to move the donors through the protesters, who had gathered outside the Hilton Portland to taunt Bush and his supporters.
There were conflicting reports about whether Portland or Beaverton police officers fired the rubber bullets at the crowd of about 1,300 people. Police said it was the first time in memory that officers had used rubber bullets in Portland for crowd control.
"It may have been our Beaverton partners," said Portland Police Chief Mark Kroeker, reached at home Thursday night. "I don't believe our people used them today, but they are very effective in crowd management."
Several arrests were reported, but police did not have a tally as the protests continued past 10 p.m. A number of people suffered from pepper spray, including several children, and some adults had welts from rubber bullets. No serious injuries were reported, although one police officer broke a wrist when shoved to the ground by protesters, said Sgt. Brian Schmautz, a Portland Police Bureau spokesman.
The gathering turned chaotic shortly before 5 p.m. at Southwest Taylor Street between Sixth and Fifth avenues, more than an hour before the president spoke at the Hilton.
A half-block from the hotel, officers in black riot gear ordered protesters, who ranged from peace activists to a wide range of environmentalists, to disperse. Moments later, even as some protesters shouted "peaceful protest" and began to retreat, police began saturating the crowd with pepper spray.
According to Schmautz, the officers were members of the bureau's Rapid Response Team, specially trained to deal with crowd disturbances.
The crowd did not follow police commands, Schmautz said. "We had several items being thrown at the officers."
At one point, as a police car pushed through the crowd while officers were attempting to reposition a metal barricade, several protesters leaped onto the hood of the cruiser.
Officers responded by firing rubber bullets, resulting in one protester falling to the street.
There was a later incident about 8:15 p.m. in front of the Heathman Hotel, when about 15 protesters blocked the entrance. When the demonstrators didn't move, police declared an emergency, fired several rounds of rubber bullets into the ground and arrested one protester while clearing the area.
Rapid Response Team officers carried several types of less-than-lethal guns: a 12-gauge gun with bean-bag ammunition, a 37 mm single-shot gun with .50-caliber rubber balls the size of marbles and sage guns with rubber-type rounds.
. Aside from Beaverton, officers from Tigard, Clackamas County and Oregon State Police, assisted, reporting to Portland police incident commanders.
Pepper spray continues to be a common crowd control tactic. Don Joughin and his wife, Corinna, expected a peaceful protest, so they brought their three children, ages 3, 7 and 10 months.
Near Southwest Second Avenue and Alder Street, foot and bike officers told Joughin to move his family. But as the Joughins moved away, officers sprayed in their direction, temporarily blinding them.
"There was no warning, no ultimatum, nothing," Joughin said, trying to comfort his wailing 10-month-old son, whose eyes were red and swollen. "They picked the guy with three kids to spray first."
Alan Graf, a member of the National Lawyers Guild and police-accountability activist, said members of the guild will be at the mayor's office at 9 this morning. They will demand Kroeker's resignation for the Police Bureau's handling of protesters.
Donors caught in middle Bush was attending a fund-raiser for Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., who is being challenged by Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, a Democrat.
A long line of donors, including Republican gubernatorial candidate Kevin Mannix, found themselves pressed against parking lot walls near Fifth and Taylor, unable to move past the protest.
Police said they did not set up a corridor for donors to get to the event, but only those trying to walk up Taylor Street encountered trouble. A few protesters screamed obscenities and attempted to block the Republican supporters.
Mannix said one protester blocked his path as he and his wife walked toward the Hilton. "I said 'I'm just trying to get through here,' " Mannix said. After about 10 seconds, "I put my hands on his left side and just brushed past.
"I'll just say it was tense," Mannix said.
Thursday's protest was relatively calm compared with a clash two years ago between police and demonstrators, as well as similar conflicts when the first President Bush visited more than a decade ago.
Although the crowd of 300 was much smaller during a May Day rally in 2000, it led to property damage and 19 arrests and a lengthy debate about whether police used the proper amount of force.
About 30 people were arrested in the 1991 demonstration against then-President Bush.
Similar demonstrations against Bush and then-Vice President Dan Quayle in 1989 and 1990 led to dozens of arrests and prompted White House officials to label Portland "Little Beirut."
Mark Larabee, Dave Hogan, Norm Maves and Ashbel S. Green of The Oregonian contributed to this story.