NewsNation goes inside Portland protests to see how groups operate

PORTLAND, Ore. (NewsNation Now) — Protesting has been a nearly nightly fixture in Portland, Oregon, since former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd.

The gatherings are often declared riots, leaving many pockets of damage throughout the city. Now, however, some signs of disorganization and apparent infighting among those protesting.

The activists usually gather after dark following a call on social media. 

On a recent night, a meeting at Woodlawn Park north of downtown Portland. The apparent leaders were confrontational and unwilling to be interviewed or shown on camera.

Soon after the call went out on social media, there are drumbeats, and about 80 people were on the move.

Two men with wooden shields tried to block any coverage and, as the crowd roamed along Martin Luther King Blvd., a popping sound was heard.

The vandals moved on as broken windows were assessed at a popular Popeye’s restaurant.

According to a witness, the criminals didn’t appear to be from the area.

“I hear a lot of controversy around who’s out here doing the derelict, the things of this nature. But whenever I’ve done a live or seen it on video, it’s never someone who looks like us who’s vandalizing our neighborhoods,” said the witness.

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A U.S. Bank and other buildings were damaged before the march meanders onto neighborhood streets.

Portland Police were prepared for the night, surrounding the group with multiple vehicles and bikes. Those officers spent some of the night on cleanup duty.

Not all in the crowd are confrontational or support the damage of property.

“It’s not my place to tell people how to protest, so like, I would say ‘I personally don’t do that,’ but it’s not my place to tell other people not to do that,” said a protester.

After nearly two hours, largely bypassing the nearby police precinct, the group circled back toward Martin Luther King Blvd.

And as they began to disperse, there was frustration over tactics and organization between participating groups.

“We came here… come down here. Next thing I know, we get in front of the [expletive] police station and they run. Like, what the [expletive]?” said another protester.

Police are often stretched thin in responding to the protesting and rioting — while also handling an increase in violent crime in the city.

And while Oregon, with a strong history of activism, is known to have a high tolerance for protests, many residents remain frustrated over criminal activity and violence.