Protests disrupt freeways, bridges
Police and FBI step up security measures around the region
As darkness fell, hundreds of protesters closed the west end of the Burnside Bridge for several hours. Smaller groups played cat-and-mouse games with police, temporarily closing I-84 and I-405.
'We're doing the best we can,' police spokesman Brian Schmautz said around 8 p.m.
Portland Police Chief Mark Kroeker said, 'This was the most officers we have ever deployed, except during traditional large events such as the Rose Parade.' He planned to call out additional officers when protesters began moving toward the freeways.
Damage was minimal, police said. A McDonald's restaurant on the east side had some windows broken and paint was sprayed on some walls and sidewalks.
The first group went west over Burnside Bridge around 6 p.m. and headed down an I-84 off-ramp, forming human barricades of six to 10 people to prevent traffic from entering. Police moved quickly to move protesters away from traffic, occasionally using pepper spray and wrestling some of them to the ground.
But, as this issue of the Portland Tribune went to press, the protesters were still moving freely through the city, primarily around the Burnside Bridge. Although a few arrests had been made, Kroeker said there was no timetable for bring the protest to an end.
'We will wait it out,' he said. 'We will wait and see what the weather does.'
Earlier Thursday, the FBI served four search warrants in Hillsboro, while city and county officials increased security precautions.
Charles Mathews, special agent in charge of the Oregon FBI office, declined to comment on the early morning searches, saying only that they were part of an 'ongoing investigation' in the Portland area.
Mathews said the searches were not related to an FBI program begun Thursday to question Iraqi nationals living in the Portland area and nationwide about information they can provide to assist in the U.S. military's war efforts in Iraq.
Local commuters found Portland police cars parked on or near local bridges during their morning drives. The visible deployment was part of Operation Safe City, the plan announced by city and county leaders to maintain business as usual despite the war.
The large orange square posted on the glass door of the downtown Justice Center wasn't the only display of the raised threat level on Thursday.
There were no reported threats against the city or the Northwest. However, with the promise of civil unrest in the city in response to the war with Iraq, every local, state and federal law enforcement agency stood on guard.
Authorities checked identification at public buildings, deployed extra resources to patrol streets and waterways, and geared up for antiwar demonstrations.
Here's how the agencies responded:
• The Portland FBI office established command posts around the city, focusing on protecting potential targets. The agency asked that people report suspicious activity either to 911 or to the Joint Terrorism Task Force at 503-224-4181.
'Obviously, we're not interested in individuals reporting based on the ethnic or religious preferences of people,' Special Agent J.R. Hill said.
'On the other hand,' Hill said, 'if people do observe suspicious activity Ñ gatherings, taking photos of what might be viewed as sensitive facilities, individuals seen at a strange period of time at sensitive areas,' they should report it.
In addition, the FBI announced that with the help of immigration officials, they have identified 'a number of Iraqi-born people in the United States who we wish to interview in conjunction with the start of hostilities.'
The purpose of the interviews is twofold, an FBI statement said: to elicit information of value to the U.S. government concerning Iraqi hostilities, and to advise the community members of the FBI's responsibility to protect them from hate crimes.
• Additional security on Thursday was assigned to the mayor's office and Multnomah County Chairwoman Diane Linn.
Officers stood guard at public buildings downtown, where access was reduced, including at Central Precinct, City Hall and the Portland Building. Visitors and employees were asked to show identification. At the police bureau, visitors were subject to search with a metal detector wand and escorted to their destination.
• The Oregon Air National Guard's F-15 fighter jets were ready to be deployed anywhere around the world on short notice.
Large metal containers full of repair equipment were lined up in the maintenance hangar at the Air National Guard base Ñ a sure sign that most of the 18 jets and approximately 1,000 pilots and maintenance workers with the 142nd Fighter Wing were prepared to depart in a matter of days.
'We're ready to go if the orders come down,' said Master Sgt. Lane Hoffman. If the call comes, the planes and crew could be flown to the Middle East. Or they could be transferred to the East Coast to provide additional security for Washington, D.C.
• Port of Portland security officers were inspecting vehicles at random on Northeast Airport Way as they approached Portland International Airport. Motorists who refused inspection were asked to leave or park their cars in the long-term or economy parking lots.
• Four Multnomah County sheriff's deputies were inspecting trucks at random along Interstate 84 and Interstate 205 coming into Portland. They were checking for proper documentation and watching for any suspicious activity.
• Sgt. Dave Hadley, supervisor of Multnomah County's 12-member river patrol unit, said the county is receiving assistance from the marine patrol units in Clark and Clackamas counties. U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary boats also will be patrolling.
The river units will focus on the bridges if protesters try to block the bridges across the Willamette, he said. 'I think that's where our biggest problem is going to come from.'
• The Portland Trail Blazers used NBA-suggested security measures for their Wednesday night game against the Houston Rockets, scanning ticket-holders before they entered the Rose Garden.
'The key was, we did a lot of pregame publicity, so our flow of people arriving was steady from 5:30 to 7 p.m.,' said J.E. Isaac, the Blazers' senior vice president of business affairs. 'There were no complaints. The only feedback we got was from people thanking us for taking the steps we did to ensure safety.'