Police declared the event a riot and ordered people rampaging through the city’s streets to disperse but did not directly intervene until nearly an hour after the first statue fell. The crowd scattered when police cruisers flooded the area, and officers in tactical gear appeared to make several arrests.
Protest organizers had promoted the event on social media as an “Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage.” Monday is the federally observed holiday of Columbus Day, but many states and cities now recognize the day instead as Indigenous Peoples Day over concerns that Christopher Columbus' arrival in the Americas helped launch centuries of violence against indigenous populations.
The organizers had signaled their aggressive stance for the night, calling for “direct action” and demanding that the video live-streamers and photographers who had become staples of such events stay away.
People in the crowd were repeatedly admonished not to film. Passersby who happened upon the group were ordered by demonstrators to stop filming or delete photographs, including an apartment resident who had lasers shined at his eyes and a liquid thrown in his face as he appeared to shoot video of the scene from his terrace.
The group, about 200 strong, marched through downtown Portland, at one point occupying all four lanes of West Burnside Street. Most dressed head-to-toe in black. Many wore body armor, carried shields or wielded night sticks and other weapons.
As the crowd reached the South Park Blocks, some threw chains on ropes on the Roosevelt statue, a bronze sculpture officially titled “Theodore Roosevelt, Rough Rider,” as others took a blowtorch to its base and splattered it with red paint.