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Portland sees largely peaceful night of protests with more than 1,000 demonstrators as feds prepare to withdraw

FOX News logo FOX News 8/1/2020 Vandana Rambaran
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Portland protests remained largely peaceful Friday night as over a thousand demonstrators gathered in front of downtown's courthouse, as federal officers stepped back amid a deal to eventually withdraw from the city.

Usually a hotspot for violent clashes with law enforcement, demonstraters instead congregated outside of Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse in Oregon, with balloons, flags, and painted signs chanting "Black Lives Matter."

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The scene was in stark contrast to previous nights in the over 60 days of protests in the same spot following the death of George Floyd, where demonstrators pelted police with bottles, fireworks and other projectiles and attacked the fence around the courthouse, setting fires around the area and police deploying pepper spray to disperse crowds.

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Since Democratic Gov. Kate Brown announced federal officers would begin a "phased withdrawal" from the city as part of an agreement with Trump's Department of Homeland Security on Thursday, the city has remained notably less angst-filled.

Isolated pockets of disturbance punctuated the otherwise calm movement after midnight Saturday, and protesters were quick to chastize rogue actors.

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A lone firework was thrown across the fence and at the courthouse, where officers stood guard inside and other demonstrators pleaded with the crowd to remain non-violent.

Later, some agitators burned Bibles and flags outside the courthouse and set a series of fires. Other protesters helped to put out at least one of those fires in an effort to keep the peace.

A group identified as “Firefighters for Black Lives Matter” gathered in a small park a couple of miles west of the courthouse. Another group, “Unemployed Workers for Black Lives” began to march towards the federal building around 8 p.m. People stood next to a makeshift memorial, with the pictures and names of Black people killed by police, at the Waterfront Park. A parade of cars with Black Lives Matter signs taped to their windows slowed traffic in the city.

Just after midnight, the crowd had grown to over 1,000 people who remained outside chanting “Black Lives Matter” and shouting the names of Black people killed by police. Groups were also standing together engaging in conversations about social injustice.

President Trump had sent officers from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Marshals Service, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to protect federal property in the city but the move only heightened the angst and violence in the city, which was already reeling from months of demonstrations.

Brown said that once federal agents clear the city, Oregon State Police would be the primary law enforcement body with a presence in the city.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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