By Deborah Bloom
PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) – Thousands of Black Lives Matter demonstrators crowded outside the central police precinct in Portland on Thursday evening as protests continued for a 56th consecutive day.
“I’m so inspired to see a sea of people who don’t look like me who are saying Black Lives Matter,” said Damany Iqwe, referring to the majority-white crowd.
Iqwe, 43, is a Black man who grew up in Portland, Oregon, and has frequently attended protests that have continued since the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.
“Five or six times I’ve been stopped, detained and questioned by police for looking like a suspect,” Iqwe said. “This city is one of the most systematically racist places to live in as a Black man.”
The U.S. Justice Department said on Thursday it would investigate the use of force by federal agents against protesters in Portland after another night of unrest in which Mayor Ted Wheeler was tear-gassed.
The investigations follow public anger over the deployment of federal border patrol officers to Portland against the wishes of local officials, and President Donald Trump’s administration has said it is sending a similar contingent to Seattle.
Earlier on Thursday, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order barring federal law enforcement from using force against journalists and legal observers at the Portland protests. This followed a lawsuit filed on behalf of journalists whom federal agents had hit with non-lethal “impact munitions.”
Demonstrators and local officials see the deployment of federal agents in Portland as a political ploy by Trump to drum up a “law and order” campaign as he faces an uphill re-election battle.
Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf has said all federal agents have been making lawful arrests and properly identifying themselves as law enforcement.
Wheeler, a Democrat, has called the intervention an abuse of federal power and said it was escalating the violence.
(Reporting by Deborah Bloom in Portland, Additional reporting by Rama Venkat in Bengaluru, Editing by Gerry Doyle and Timothy Heritage)