Riot police use pepper spray to try to control Occupy crowd

Riot police use pepper spray to try to control Occupy crowd »Play Video
A police officer uses pepper spray on an Occupy Portland protestor at Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland Ore., Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011. (The Oregonian, Randy L. Rasmussen)

 Today's Event Timeline | Twitter Updates

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Occupy Portland protest took a dramatic turn late Thursday as protesters and police clashed in downtown Portland and police used pepper spray to disperse the crowd.

At least 48 protesters were arrested during the course of the day, according to Portland Police Bureau spokesman Lt. Robert King.

Fourteen of those arrests were at or near the Chase Bank across from Pioneer Courthouse Square where the day's most dramatic confrontations between police and protesters occurred.

The demonstrators gathered at the bank at Yamhill and 6th Avenue at about 3:30 p.m. and it appeared they had entered the lobby or at least the main entrance. One protester climbed up into an entrance window above the bank’s sign.

The Portland Police Bureau's mounted patrol and rapid response units moved in and police ordered a mass of protesters to clear the streets or they would be arrested.

A confrontation erupted as police moved in and then police deployed the pepper spray. Protesters could be seen pouring water into each other's eyes to stave off the effects of the spray and police took several protesters into custody.

The chain of events began in the morning when hundreds of protesters rallied on the Steel Bridge and then streamed into the downtown core where they targeted big banks. Portland Police officers arrested 25 people who refused to clear the bridge.

In addition to those arrested at the Steel Bridge and Chase Bank, another nine were arrested at different times during the day.

King said most were arrested for disorderly conduct and police will have a final number Friday.

Banks across the nation had been on alert as the two-month anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street protests arrived and a call for action on "#N17" (November 17) went out across the Internet.

Bruce Evans, a Portland State University student, was among the protesters outside a downtown Bank of America branch.

"I've been spreading the message that a lot of us have moved our accounts to credit unions," he said.

Joy Leo is a grandmother from Lake Oswego who joined the protests, as well.

"I"m a grandma, retired person, 65 years-old saying that people need to take their government back. We need to vote, we need to engage, pay attention to what's going on," she said.

Mayor Sam Adams reiterated that the city's goal has been to keep the protests and police response as peaceful as possible.

"They have a right to be on the sidewalk and when they trespass onto private property we respond to that," he said. "When they want to do the non-violent civil disobedience like this morning at the bridge in sitting down, we will arrest them. We will walk up to everybody and say 'we're about to arrest you, do you want to be arrested? You can also now walk away.'" 

Protest groups of all stripes are increasingly using the Internet, websites and social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to organize and inform protest members. Online updates, photos and live video streams from cell phones and portable computers have given the protesters a unique voice outside traditional media outlets.

The Occupy Portland livestream, fed by a portable camera and computer immersed in the protest group, had more than 1,000 viewers at points during the events in Portland.

Law enforcement agencies are also keeping pace with their own websites, Twitter accounts and Facebook pages.

Occupy movement participants say they are angry about the influence of financial institutions in the US government, the payment of large bonuses to bank officials who headed up banks saved by the TARP bailouts and alleged undue influence in government by the very wealthy, which they call the "one percent." Protesters call themselves the "99 percent."

Read more stories about Occupy Portland and the Occupy movement


5:55 p.m. - Lt. Robert King with the Portland Police Bureau confirms that it took police three hours to respond to a rape victim on Thursday due to resources being used up by Occupy Portland protests.

5:42 p.m. - Just a note on the use of pepper spray - police say they did use pepper spray last Saturday but only to break up a fight between two men. Thursday marked the first time police used pepper spray in a direct confrontation with protesters.

5:41 p.m. Video from inside the Wells Fargo BEFORE police moved in.  You can hear/see exactly what was happening.

4:45 p.m. Medics put an elderly man into an ambulance after he fell near the bank.

4:25 p.m. Police used pepper spray to clear/control protesters at the Chase Bank at Pioneer Courthouse Square. At least two taken into custody. Police have massed in the street in riot gear.

3:30 p.m. Protesters begin to occupy/stage at a Chase bank at Pioneer Courthouse. Police moved in and worked to clear the streets with some confrontations, arrests.

1:50 p.m.: Anita Kissee is now at 2nd and Morrison. She says about 100 to 200 people are on the sidewalk chanting singing while blocking the doors. She says the crowd is growing and anyone wanting to get into the building has to wade through the crowd. She says about 20 police officers in riot gear in the street on the edge of the crowd but holding back.

1:47 p.m.: KATU asks Lt. King why there are no police at the 2nd and Morrison B of A Financial Center. King says the bank has locked its doors and there is a contingent of police close by. The protesters appear to be sitting in and blocking an entrance.

1:45 p.m.: Lt. King with PPB says police are trying to be "physically present" and give "verbal direction" to marchers to keep traffic moving. He says the mood and tone of the group goes up and down from calm to agitated. King says several other police departments including OSP and metro area departments are involved.

1:36 p.m.: Protesters are outside the Bank of America branch at 2nd and SW Morrison, blocking the entrance. A Wells Fargo spokesman said protesters caused no damage at their branches but there have been sporadic "one-off" actions at other branches.

1:32 p.m.: A photo from Mark Plut shows protesters outside the entrance of a Bank of America location waiting to be arrested. One has an "Occupy the Banks" sign. Here is his photo:

1:28 p.m.Dan Tilkin reports some protesters have gained access to a Bank of America branch and have been arrested. We are trying to reach him by phone for confirmation. A press release from #OPDX says Wells Fargo was targeted in part because of their investment in the prison industry.

1:20 p.m.: Standoff at 5th and Alder continues. Protesters are reportedly singing the "Darth Vader song" as many police are dressed in riot gear.

1:17 p.m.Mary Fetsch with TriMet says the large number of protesters is slowing trains and buses but everyone is doing "the best they can" to keep moving and safe.

1:10 p.m.: Protesters are reportedly blocking 5th and Alder Street and police are telling them to get out of the street and onto the sidewalk, apparently without success. Police in riot gear, on horses and on bikes are all in the mix.

1:05 p.m.: KATU photographer Sean Broderick reports some protesters gained entry to the bank branch by dressing in nice clothes (suits, etc.) and going in as customers. Once inside, they removed their nice clothes and commenced their protest. He also says that those who went inside the banks got there ahead of the main protest group to ensure they could get past security and into the branch.

1:00p p.m.: Dan Tilkin reports this group of protesters made up of more "mature" activists including many older people and union members.

12:55 p.m.Protesters appear to be splintering or at least dividing into groups. "Action groups" are apparently make up of those willing to go into banks while the rest remain outside in vocal support. At least 25 people have been arrested during Occupy Portland protest actions today.

12:48 p.m.Dan Tilkin reports he thinks some of the enthusiasm has gone out of the march following events at the Wells Fargo. US flag at Wells Fargo has been righted.

12:44 p.m.Dan Tilkin reports some of the crowd has moved to a Bank of America branch where riot police are waiting for them. B of A spokesperson said the bank will close branches depending on the situation. Tilkin reports no protesters are inside the the branch and the crowd looks like it is on the move again.

12:38 p.m.: TriMet says Green and Yellow MAX trains are stopped due to the protest and some buses are delayed and diverted. Protest group is mow moving away from the Wells Fargo branch and heading elsewhere, destination is not clear.

12:34 p.m.: US flag outside Wells Fargo location re-flown upside down (a symbol of emergency distress). Bank of America official says they are closing Portland downtown branches today due to protesters. Protest tweet indicates group may splinter and go to other banks.

12:26 p.m.KATU reporter Dan Tilkin estimates 500 to 700 people at the protest. Unknown how many went into the bank. Watch live on

12:22 p.m.Video from a KATU photographer shows several people in handcuffs inside the Wells Fargo branch as police in riot gear stand watch.

12:20 p.m.KATU is using the #OPDX Livestream feed showing activity inside the bank. Things look mostly calm but people are being arrested by police officers.

12:18 p.m.: KATU reporter Patrick Preston reports the doors to the branch are closed and police in riot gear are inside with protesters, customers and bank staff. The street and sidewalk outside the bank is filled with people.

12:15 p.m.KATU photographer Mark Plut, who is on the scene, says police are arresting people inside the Wells Fargo branch.

12:10 p.m.Anita Kissee says protesters are working to keep the protest non-violent and to not cause any property damage. Protesters are reportedly handing out fliers to those caught inside the bank branch. It's also raining quite hard at the moment.

12:07 p.m.: Protesters have entered a Wells Fargo branch inside the Standard Insurance Center on SW 5th. So far police have not taken action but there are dozens of officers on bikes, horses and in riot gear watching the events unfold. No word on what exactly is happening inside the bank. Protesters continue to call for a "peaceful protest".

12:04 p.m.: A large contingent of cyclists has now joined the march. They can legally be in the streets. Protesters had said a "bike swarm" may be involved. Protesters have now entered a Wells Fargo branch.

12:02 p.m.The Occupy movement is organized to a large degree on social media and Portland Police are keeping pace here!/PortlandPolice

Noon: Protesters appear stalled or are regrouping at 5th and Yamhill. Police do not appear to have halted them. KATU News is live now here:

11:43 a.m.: Some marchers are in the street. Others are calling for them to get back on the sidewalk to avoid confrontations with the police.

11:39 a.m.Protest march continues. A fairly constant refrain and chant from the group: "Banks got bailed out, we got sold out." Group is now crossing 2nd Avenue downtown.

11:33 a.m.: Just seen: police in full riot gear riding along perimeter of one of those large police armored transports. Crowd continues to march, staying on sidewalk. Police on bikes continue to form a a moving wall in the street, traffic appears largely unaffected. Group stretches over about a two-block area, perhaps more.

11:28 a.m.: Scuffle appears to have subsided, unclear if any arrests. Looks like protesters were crossing against the don't walk signal. Protesters chanting "we can do this on our own, police go home."

11:24 a.m.: Protesters appear to be scuffling with some police with bikes at one corner. Much yelling and now police on horseback have gotten involved.

11:22 a.m.Some social media posts being monitored by KATU News indicate a Wells Fargo bank is a target of protesters. Many police on bikes are moving with the group.

11:11 a.m.Woman says the group is going to "take off" in a "few minutes" down Ankeny and they don't want people to block public transit systems since they are "our friends" and because it is a felony to do so. Other encourage marchers to stay on the sidewalk. Another man who claims to be a former Army Ranger reminds the crowd of those serving overseas but says he supports their actions.

10:58 a.m.OP Livestream operator says decision on bank occupation taking place now. Man says riot police are in the park. Woman says 200 people have been arrested (that number has not been verified by KATU). So far there has been no announcement on what specific banks might be targeted but there was an earlier speech claiming Bank of America paid no federal taxes in 2010 (not verified) so that bank may be a target. There was also a rant against the B of A CEO getting paid a reported $9 million in 2010.

10:41 a.m.: It appears some protesters will be heading to a bank or banks, according to remarks on the Occupy Portland livestream. What banks will be targeted was not made clear.

10:37 a.m.: A person has told protesters to tell police they do not condone personal searches and "don't trust the police."

10:26 a.m.According to remarks carried on the #OPDX livestream, there may be a decision by 11 a.m. on whether the group or parts of the group will attempt to occupy a Portland bank or banks.

10:22 a.m.: Protesters are having a discussion and meetings about whether they will "occupy" a bank in Portland. Similar actions have resulted in arrests in other cities.

10:15 a.m.: Occupy Portland has their own live stream from wherever they are. Be aware that we do not control what goes out on their live stream so what is said or done may not be exactly family friendly. But it is an unedited view from the street.

10 a.m.: Protesters are gathered in Waterfront Park but don't appear to be moving at this time. Sgt. Simpson with Portland Police: We’re just monitoring the area. If they go out and march we’ll escort folks.”

“Right now it’s a political event in the park”  respect people’s rights to protest, they’re just there to enforce the laws.

Simpson: “We are monitoring the social media heavily. This movement has largely grown through the use of social media. We have people that provide us information from the different groups that aren’t necessarily spokesmen or liaisons.”