PORTLAND, Ore. (CBS Seattle/AP) — Police in Portland used pepper spray and arrested seven people after hundreds of demonstrators roamed the city and blocked traffic Tuesday night while protesting a grand jury decision not to indict a Missouri police officer in the killing of an 18-year-old.
The arrests involved a splinter group that broke away after a peaceful downtown demonstration that involved about 1,000 people, police said.
The smaller group of about 300 marched across a major Willamette River bridge into east Portland, disrupting traffic. Sgt. Pete Simpson said one driver was punched in the face by a protester who disappeared into the crowd. The driver was not seriously injured.
Protesters also marched onto Interstate 5, where some tossed rocks and bottles at police, Simpson said. That’s when officers used pepper spray and made several arrests. The freeway was clear within about 10 minutes, the spokesman said.
Those arrested were accused of offenses including disorderly conduct and interfering with an officer.
Bus and light rail traffic was disrupted.
“No justice, no peace,” protesters chanted, “no racist police.”
Several confrontations briefly elevated into skirmishes. At one point on the Hawthorne Bridge, which police were blocking, a police officer on a motorcycle repeatedly ran his bike into the legs of a protester, who continued to stand in his way.
The incident drew a crowd of protesters who accused the officer of assault. The officer quickly left the area.
The protest had many elements of the Occupy Portland movement, which galvanized protesters in the city and formed a network of people who still communicate via mass text message.
As with Occupy, the vast majority of protesters preached peace, but a fringe group of people — some covering their faces with black bandannas — advocated violence and confrontations with police. And like Occupy, the original protest drew a disparate group of people together, not all of whom agreed with one another.
Military veterans called for peace, a communist group called for the overthrow of capitalism, and a group calling for a Palestinian state all held court during a series of speeches on the steps of the state Justice Center in Portland.
Portland is perhaps as primed as any city in the country to protest police actions. The Portland Police Bureau has endured scrutiny by the U.S. Department of Justice, which has criticized the bureau’s treatment of the mentally ill.
The department has had violent, sometimes fatal, confrontations with the mentally ill and the black community, highlighted in the documentary “Alien Boy,” about the death of a homeless man in police custody.
In many parts of the country, Tuesday was the second day of protests over the Ferguson, Missouri, decision.
For many, the shooting of Michael Brown, who was black, by Officer Darren Wilson, who is white, recalled other troubling encounters with law enforcement. The refrain “hands up, don’t shoot” became a rallying cry over police killings nationwide.
In Eugene, more than 200 people gathered downtown for a Tuesday evening vigil to remember the life of Michael Brown and voice their support for changes in law enforcement practices.
“We’ve gone to sleep over the years,” said Eugene City Councilor Greg Evans, one of several speakers. “We’ve gotten into a cult of worshipping Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. over the years instead of doing his work.”
Evans, who is black, said he has been racially profiled in Eugene many times and worries for his four sons.
“Michael Brown could have been your son, he could have been my son,” Evans said.
In Salem, about 50 chanting protesters gathered earlier Tuesday at the city’s police headquarters. The police station in Oregon’s capital city is at City Hall, and the protesters walked in a circle at the building’s plaza.
In Ferguson, Mo., 44 people were arrested in a second night of protests.
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