PORTLAND, Ore. — Even as President Obama amplified his appeals for unity, police around the country bolstered forces Friday before another possible outpouring of protests against the election of Donald Trump that have grown increasingly violent and defiant.
More than 225 people were arrested across various cities by early Friday — at least 185 in Los Angeles alone, the Associated Press reported — amid demonstrations that included highway blockades, angry chants of “not my president” and a rampage through Portland, Ore., that police declared a “riot.”
The organizer of the Portland protest, Gregory McKelvey, complained that plans for a peaceful gathering were hijacked by self-proclaimed anarchists, including some smashing cars and windows with baseball bats. McKelvey said another “healing” rally was planned for later Friday. But the melee underscored the volatile and unpredictable atmosphere after the unexpected victory by Trump, who has been depicted as a dangerous and erratic leader by many opponents.
The sense of potential crisis was reinforced by clashes that included a video of a 49-year-old man, David Wilcox, being viciously beaten by a group of young men and women in Chicago while screaming phrases such as “You voted Trump” and “Don’t vote Trump.”
“What’s happening to America?” Wilcox asked in a recorded interview with the Chicago Tribune. At Arlington National Cemetery, Obama used his Veterans Day remarks to try to remind the country of its common bonds — even though Obama himself had derided Trump during the campaign and described him as unfit for the presidency.
“When the election is over, as we search for ways to come together, to reconnect with one another and with the principles that are more enduring than transitory politics,” Obama said.
For the moment, Portland has emerged as a bellwether for signs on the scope and tone of the protests.
Around 4,000 people took to Portland’s streets at the peak of the demonstration late Thursday, confronting drivers, spray-painting buildings and smashing electrical boxes with baseball bats, Pete Simpson, public information officer for the Portland Police Department, told The Washington Post.
Police used pepper spray and “rubber baton rounds,” among other things, in efforts to disperse protesters.
What began as a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest at about 6 p.m. escalated as the night wore on because of demonstrators not affiliated with the group, said Teressa Raiford, a community organizer in Portland.
“They’re not coming to show solidarity, they’re coming because they know there’s going to be a big crowd,” Raiford said. “They don’t respect our movement.”
Simpson said anarchists “aligned with the Black Bloc groups” infiltrated the peaceful demonstration “covered head-to-toe and carrying weapons.”
“Their tactic is go out and destroy property,” Simpson said. Peaceful protesters tried to stop the more violent individuals, but “they’re not having any luck,” Simpson said.
After protesters began throwing objects at police, and refusing orders to disperse, authorities used nonlethal flash grenades to move the crowd. “It’s definitely fair to say we are significantly outnumbered,” Simpson said. Thursday’s protest was “one of the larger marches we’ve seen in the last few years,” he said.
Anger at the outcome of the election and a professed unwillingness to accept it are widespread on the Internet, despite the conciliatory words from Hillary Clinton and Obama. Thousands of people have declared on social media that the president-elect is “never my president” or “not my president,” phrases that showed up on signs at protests. But only a relative few sharing that sentiment have actually taken to the streets.
Trump and some of his supporters were heavily criticized during the campaign when they suggested they might not accept the result if Trump lost.
Protests began early Wednesday in the biggest U.S. cities — New York, Los Angeles and Chicago — and flared in places from Portland and Seattle to Philadelphia and Richmond, along with cities in red states such as Atlanta, Dallas, Omaha and Kansas City, Mo.
On Thursday, about 600 “anti-Trump” protesters marched to downtown Baltimore and blocked streets. Following a rally in downtown Minneapolis, several thousand protesters blocked the heavily traveled Interstate 94 for about an hour Thursday night, causing a major traffic backup in both directions, the Star Tribune reported.
In Oakland, officials pleaded with demonstrators to remain peaceful Thursday after the previous night’s violence. Several incidents of graffiti — with phrases such as “Kill Trump” — were reported. Protesters set many small street fires and smashed a handful of windows, but the disorder did not appear as widespread as the night before, SF Gate reported. At least a half dozen arrests were made.
More than 300 people marched through downtown Los Angeles Thursday night, many yelling, “We reject the president-elect!” Protesters halted traffic, threw bottles at officers, tagged police cars with graffiti and launched fireworks, the Los Angeles Times reported. But the protest was mostly peaceful, and it drew many fewer participants than the crowd of thousands on Wednesday night.
By 1 a.m., multiple arrests were made by the Los Angeles Police Department for either vandalism or disobeying a lawful order, Los Angeles Times reporter James Queally tweeted.
The protests drew a rebuke from Trump, who met with Obama at the White House on Thursday morning. “Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!” Trump said on Twitter, without specifying what he meant by “incited by the media.”
It was his first comment about the protests and one of the few statements he has made since claiming victory over Hillary Clinton early Wednesday morning. In 2012, after Obama was elected to a second term, Trump tweeted: “We can’t let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty. Our nation is totally divided!”
Early Friday morning, Trump took a different tone, tweeting this message: “Love the fact that the small groups of protesters last night have passion for our great country. We will all come together and be proud!”
On Thursday, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, a Trump supporter, chimed in, calling the protesters “a bunch of spoiled crybabies” in a Fox News interview.
In Portland, the Oregonian newspaper reported, protesters chanted “Not my president” while carrying signs that read: “Oppression thrives off isolation. Stand united,” “We reject the fascist agenda” and “You’re fired!”
Mike Bivins, a local freelance journalist, said the protest took a noticeable turn as demonstrators passed a Northeast Portland car dealership, where some started breaking car windows. A dumpster and a newsstand were set on fire.
As protesters reached the Pearl District, a wealthy Northwest Portland neighborhood, “it became a free for all” of property damage, Simpson said.
Protesters lit fires and shot flares into the air, and some dragged newspaper boxes into lines across streets. Other demonstrators took photos of themselves — giving the camera a thumbs-up sign — in front of a line of cops wearing riot gear.
Leah Sottile reported from Portland and Murphy from Washington. Renae Merle in New York; Mark Berman in Washington; Kari Lyderson in Chicago; Nick Romeo in Berkeley, Calif.; Les Neuhaus in Tampa; and Bobby Allyn in Philadelphia contributed to this report.
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