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Federal officers use tear gas, munitions on Portland, Ore., protesters

July 25 (UPI) -- Federal officers deployed multiple rounds of tear gas and impact munitions at a crowd of thousands protesters overnight in Portland, local media reported Saturday.

At 1 a.m., federal officers fired the tear gas and munitions on a crowd after some protesters nearby set off a series of fireworks toward the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse, The Oregonian reported.

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Shortly before firing the gas, federal officers declared the gathering unlawful over a loudspeaker.

The peaceful civil rights demonstrations nearing their 60th night devolve most nights into clashes between federal law enforcement and a small number of people who launch fireworks, start small fires and try to tear down the fence outside the federal courthouse building, KOIN-TV reported. Friday's demonstrations began with various groups including the Wall of Moms, lawyers and teachers, who later merged with hundreds of people outside the federal courthouse and Justice Center, into a crowd of at least 2,000 people.

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The predictability of tear gas deployed by federal officers in the civil rights protests has prompted demonstrators to prepare by bringing leaf blowers to deflect it towards officers and stop the gas from spreading, The Oregonian reported.

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Earlier in the evening, veterans lined the federal courthouse and a row of women linked to the Wall of Moms group also set up near the courthouse. About a half hour later, officers fired the first tear gas after the courthouse fence wavered to pressure as several people started to push it, but a concrete barrier prevented it from toppling over.

Many of the officers directly next to the fence wore dark uniforms that said Homeland Security.

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After ordering people to stop tampering with the fence, federal officers released more tear gas and shot impact munitions, including pepper balls, toward protesters on the front line. They continued shooting irritants and projectiles from inside the building, then emerged from the courthouse and set up directly next to the fence, at times shooing impact munitions at protesters feet away. By 11:25 p.m., officers mostly retreated inside the courthouse, but streamed out to defend the fence minutes later.

The protests decreased in size, and reconvened when tear gas dissipated, continuing until past 2 a.m.

The night started with a rally on the steps of the downtown jail next to the federal courthouse and a parade of a vehicles adorned with Black Lives Matter signs honking in support of the rally.

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Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty praised the crowd for raising awareness about the need for adoption of police reforms and urged them to keep pressing for change.

"Who knows more about policing in Portland than a Black woman who's been on the front lines for 30 years?" Hardesty asked. "We will not fail!"

The nightly demonstrations against police violence and systemic racism started after the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd on Memorial Day.

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On late Wednesday, Oregon Mayor Ted Wheeler was one of many protesters tear gassed by federal officers.

On Thursday, a federal judge issued an order barring federal agents from arresting or using physical force against journalists and legal observers without just cause.

Last week, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said that the state will sue federal law enforcement agencies over their response to the protests.

Witnesses told Oregon Public Broadcasting last week that federal officers have been using unmarked vehicles to grab protesters off the streets and detain them with little explanation of why they are being arrested in an apparent escalation of federal force.

The Justice Department inspector general announced Thursday he's opening an investigation into use of force by federal law enforcement agents in Portland and Washington, D.C.

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