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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Ten people were arrested in a so-called “Night of Rage” protest in Eugene, Oregon, on Friday night following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade case, according to police.
The unrest in Eugene — which started as a gathering near a pregnancy center and ended in 10 arrests, most for disorderly conduct — came as abortion rights protests reverberated throughout the country, including multiple that mobilized in downtown Portland, eventually merging into a vast group of about 1,500 people.
Portland police told affiliate KOIN there were no arrests made related to the protests downtown.
However, the protest near Dove Medical near downtown Eugene saw a heavy response from local law enforcement with police using an LRAD loudspeaker and eventually calling in help from the Department of Homeland Security.
Eugene police said in a press release Saturday that the use of force was prompted by a group of protesters that had allegedly blocked the Ferry Street Bridge a few blocks north of Dove Medical, thrown smoke bombs at officers, were uncompliant with commands and became “extremely loud and verbally hostile” after the first arrest was made.
However, it is unclear if law enforcement declared a riot.
The confrontation escalated with an unspecified number of people fighting with officers in the street and police firing pepper balls into the crowd. It ended in 10 arrests of people ages 18 to 29.
How the night unfolded
Around 9:20 p.m., police said a group of black-clad protesters began gathering at Dove Medical, which is a faith-based pregnancy center that does not offer or refer abortion services, according to its website.
As the crowd grew for the protest, which police said was advertised as a “Night of Rage” on social media, the group allegedly started moving toward the clinic and officers from the Eugene Police Department’s Mobile Response Team blocked the building in cars and on foot. The crowd got bigger, police said, and eventually, protesters stood on nearby East 11th Avenue, blocking the road.
According to EPD, some people picked up rocks and “several began putting on gas masks,” with one woman pumping a chemical sprayer. Authorities did not state that any chemicals were sprayed or rocks were thrown.
The group had grown to about 75 people, EPD said, and police told them over a loudspeaker they were facing disorderly conduct charges. The warnings reportedly didn’t deter the group, some of whom police said threw smoke bombs and water bottles at officers.
EPD called in a crisis negotiation team and used its truck equipped with an LRAD, a powerful hailing device sometimes used to disperse groups with extremely loud sound. Police said it was necessary so their warnings could be heard over the noise of the crowd.
Police said they started arresting people who were in the roadway, and after the first one, the situation escalated. Members of the crowd “became extremely loud and verbally hostile” to officers, EPD said, with some allegedly trying to break police lines.
Federal agents from Homeland Security and backup from the nearby Springfield Police Department were called. At some point, the crowd moved to the Ferry Street Bridge, which police described as an “essential route” for first responders to local hospitals.
More arrests were made and police said some people fought with them in the street. Those people were not identified. In response, EPD fired non-lethal “pepper balls” at the crowd and it eventually dissolved. Police said the non-lethal munitions did not contain any chemicals and officers aimed the rounds at peoples’ legs.
In total, ten people were arrested, nine of them being charged with disorderly conduct and one with harassment. A 20-year-old from Eugene was charged with third-degree escape and resisting arrest.
Some officers had minor injuries, police said.
Roughly 120 miles south, police say a “destructive group” of about five dozen people marching for abortion rights broke windows and scrawled graffiti in Portland. Banks, coffee shops, cars, and a pregnancy center were among those reportedly damaged by the group.