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Hours of peaceful protests in Portland again followed by unlawful assembly

On the fifth straight night of protests in Portland against police brutality, a peaceful rally lasted for hours before a separate march became an unlawful assembly.

PORTLAND, Ore. — On Tuesday night in Portland, thousands of demonstrators marched to Pioneer Courthouse Square to protest the killing of George Floyd, the black man who died in police custody after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Similar to Monday night's protests, the demonstrations involving thousands of people remained peaceful for several hours before a smaller group was declared an "unlawful assembly" due to illegal activities. Police at about 10:30 p.m. demanded everybody leave downtown, and announced a safe exit across the Burnside Bridge for peaceful protesters.

Police said people from the smaller, separate group threw projectiles at officers, including fireworks, bottles, bats, ball bearings and batteries, and police used tear gas and flash bang grenades to disperse protesters from that smaller group.

By the end of the night, police say more than a dozen people were arrested or detained.

"I want to recognize the thousands of demonstrators who came downtown in a peaceful manner and exercised their First Amendment rights. There are many thousands of you who are not involved in the violence and destruction and I thank you. I still hear your message and I know the others who are engaging in criminal acts do not represent you," said Portland Police Bureau Chief Jami Resch.

It was the fifth straight night of large protests in Portland, and it started with a couple hundred demonstrators at Pioneer Courthouse Square. That was followed by a "die-in" on the Burnside Bridge, with protesters chanting "I can't breathe."

Just after 6:30 p.m., another demonstration began at Southeast Portland's Revolution Hall.

"It's a beautiful evening and we are pleased all those who came out are able to express their First Amendment rights," police tweeted. "We appreciate you doing so peacefully."

By 8 p.m. thousands of marchers from the east side had crossed the Burnside Bridge and made their way to Pioneer Courthouse Square, where the two demonstrations converged for a peaceful rally, police said.

The rally downtown was so peaceful by 9 p.m. that KGW reporter Mike Benner said police presence had been completely unnoticeable for several hours.

But just before 9:30 p.m. police announced that a separate protest, at Southwest Taylor and 4th Avenue, had become an unlawful assembly with demonstrators throwing projectiles at officers. At the time, the protest at Pioneer Courthouse Square remained peaceful.

The crowd of thousands at Pioneer Courthouse Square began to peacefully march back eastbound on the Burnside Bridge at 10 p.m., according to police. Meanwhile the smaller crowd continued to throw objects at officers, who demanded they leave the area immediately.

"Due to the criminal activity and unlawful assembly, everyone should leave the downtown core area immediately. Please do not come downtown," police announced at 10:25 p.m., while fire officials and the sheriff's office shared information on how peaceful protesters could safely get across the bridge.

They later said some demonstrators were throwing projectiles from above, in a parking garage.

Police began using tear gas and flash bang grenades to disperse the crowd.

Meanwhile, the Oregon Justice Resource Center sent out a press release condemning the use of the tear gas and flash bangs during Tuesday night's protests, saying it "goes beyond the realm of an appropriate response to those standing against police violence and racial injustice.

Police announced just after 11:30 that they had already arrested several people. By 12:30 most of the crowd had left downtown Portland. Those who remained, mostly at Pioneer Courthouse Square, were warned to "leave or be subject to arrest or use of force, including riot control agents and impact munitions." 

According to a news release from Portland police, a large group of demonstrators started putting up barricades to block the intersection of Southwest 6th Avenue and Southwest Yamhill Street and began piling pallets and other items on top of each other. Police say a protester poured a bucket of what police said they believe was an accelerant on the large pile. Police announced it was a civil disturbance and told people to leave the area. Police said officers drove through the large pile of items to prevent it from being set on fire.

Just after midnight, KGW's chopper was flying above downtown when they spotted a group of protesters moving around barricades at the intersection of Southwest Broadway and Morrison Street, by Pioneer Courthouse Square.

Within moments, a Portland police cruiser sped through the intersection, narrowly missing a handful of protesters.

Portland Police Bureau Chief Jami Resch said that and other videos from Tuesday night's protest are being looked at.

"We don't know why it occurred and it's being investigated," she said during a Wednesday morning press conference.

Resch said every use of force by Portland police officers is documented and investigated and if the actions are outside the bounds of bureau policy, they'll be addressed.

It's not completely clear whether there were two incidents of police cruisers barreling through barricades where protesters were gathering. The intersection where KGW spotted the incident is two blocks away from the area Portland police addressed in their news release. 

Police said the crowd split up into smaller groups. Some demonstrators set fires and police made some arrests until the groups dispersed around 2 a.m.

In a video released at 2:20 a.m., Resch said police have been marking some vehicles with spray paint to identify those involved in criminal activity. Resch said some people in vehicles in the crowd have supplied weapons and other items to demonstrators. Resch said officers used marking Tuesday night to identify vehicles involved in these actions so that officers can stop those vehicles later.

"This seemed like the least intrusive way to accomplish our goal of life safety," Resch said.

Resch also said a pickup truck drove in reverse toward a group of officers Tuesday night, but no officers were injured.

RELATED: Portland mayor says he won't extend citywide curfew, chides Gov. Brown for National Guard comments

Streets around the Justice Center and Multnomah County Courthouse in downtown Portland had been closed for a second day due to protests, but a curfew Mayor Ted Wheeler had put in place each night since Friday was lifted for Tuesday night.

Outside of Portland, demonstrations were also held in the Cedar Mills area and in Tualatin.

RELATED: 'It's real': Cedar Mill neighbors protest racism

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RELATED: Timeline: Monday's peaceful protests in Portland over George Floyd's death