Protesters topple statues of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt in Portland
Paul P. Murphy and Laurie Ure, CNN
(CNN) — Protesters in Portland, Oregon, pulled down statues of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt on Sunday evening and vandalized some businesses, police said.
The protest occurred the evening of an “Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage” — the day before the federally recognized Columbus Day — in which activists had called for people to start marching at 7:30 p.m., according to a flyer on social media.
One flyer instructed people to “wear black, cover up” and said photography, videotaping and streamers were not allowed.
At a press conference Monday, Mayor Ted Wheeler labeled the behavior of the group of about 300 people “obscene” and “anarchist,” and said he would not condone or tolerate criminally destructive acts.
Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell said the group put chains around a statue of Teddy Roosevelt and pulled it down, using a vehicle. The crowd then toppled an Abraham Lincoln statue. Many in the group were dressed entirely in black, with masks, body armor, and helmets, and were carrying shields, Lovell said.
Three arrests have been made so far, including a person armed with a loaded pistol who broke numerous windows, and the driver involved in pulling down the Roosevelt statue, according to Lovell.
Portland Police Sgt. Kevin Allen said police declared the protest a riot. Portland has had regular protests against police brutality and racial injustice since Minneapolis police killed George Floyd in May.
In addition to being pulled down, the Lincoln statue had “Dakota 38” spray painted on its base, photos show.
That’s a reference to 38 Dakota natives hanged in Mankato, Minnesota — the largest mass execution in the US — which Lincoln ordered. Then-Minnesota Gov. Alexander Ramsey originally ordered more than 300 men sentenced to hanging but Lincoln reduced the number.
The hangings took place after the Dakota War of 1862, also known as the Sioux Uprising.
Roosevelt’s statue had “stolen lands” written on it. He has drawn criticism for his forced removal of indigenous persons, which he used to make his conservation efforts possible.
No injuries reported
CNN has reached out to the apparent organizers in Portland for comment but has not yet received a response.
The original idea of the protest appears to have been started by an organization called Indigenous Action.
“We envision this Day of Rage to be decentralized, filled with creative direct action (both above ground and below ground), daring, and with extraordinary diversity of tactics,” the groups says in a post on its website.
Lovell said two shots were fired through a restaurant window, lodging in the back of the restaurant. Windows were also broken at several other restaurants, a jewelry store, a bank, and a coffee shop.
The group attempted to burn down the Oregon Historical Society building, an institution that educates the public about all aspects of the state, good and bad, Wheeler said.
Lovell said protesters broke several windows of the Historical Society pavilion, tossing at least three lit flares inside. The flares extinguished themselves and did not do any serious damage.
There were no serious injuries and no deaths, he said.
Kerry Tymchuk, the historical society’s executive director, said an African American quilt made by 15 African American women ahead of the US bicentennial, “a priceless piece of history here,” was stolen from the building. The quilt was found several blocks away Monday morning, very wet but salvageable, according to Tymchuk.
Lovell expressed frustration at the five-month mark of destructive crowd activity in the city.
“These events late at night, they purport to have a racial justice nexus,” Lovell said. “But they’re not that. They’re about violence and criminal destruction. They’re really hurting our community and we all deserve better.”