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Police Arrest 25 In Portland May Day Protest

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Police said 25 protesters were arrested after they allegedly tried to start a riot during what was supposed to be a peaceful protest for workers' rights during International Workers Day, also known as May Day, in Portland, Oregon.

The charges ranged from arson to assault, criminal mischief and theft, according to KGW. Each of the 25 protesters arrested were also cited for failing to obey a peace officer. Three of those arrested were juveniles.

"In Portland we respect peaceful protest, but we do not and cannot support acts of violence and vandalism," said Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. "That's not political speech. That's crime."

He added: "Last night was another chapter in a story that has become all too familiar in Portland: Protests that begin peacefully but devolve quickly due to the actions of those whose only desire is to damage people and property."

But some workers' rights groups said the police response was unnecessary and description of a "riot" was exaggerated.

Romeo Sosa, executive director for Voz Workers' Rights Education Project, said police intimidated the entire crowd that had assembled to hear speeches and about workers' rights after the small group got out of hand.

"Why did they intimidate all of us? It was not all of us," Sosa said, according to The Oregonian.

Ben Basom, director of organizing and communications for the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters, was less critical of police but said what he saw hardly constituted a riot.

"The rally at the park and for about half the march went fantastic," Basom said.

Portland Police Chief Mike Marshman said only a "small group of folks" were responsible for hijacking an otherwise peaceful protest and described the situation as an "unfortunate turn of events yesterday for the city of Portland."

He also defended the police response, which he described as "vigilant."

"[Officers] were aware of what was going on around them and kept people safe," he said. "They protected property as best as they could. They took control of a pretty contentious situation. They did their jobs, and they did it well.''

Although protesters and police agree that a small group caused the disruption, Sosa was disappointed that what was supposed to be a message of solidarity for workers' rights got mixed up with depictions of violence.

"I feel frustration that the message is mixed up with the violence. That is not the message we wanted to tell the community," he said. 

Sources: KGW, The Oregonian / Photo credit: K. Kendall/Flickr

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