PORTLAND, Ore. -- What began as a peaceful march for labor rights on May Day in Portland turned violent as a group of self-described anarchists threw objects at officers and officers fired non-lethal weapons back. Police canceled the permitted march and deemed it a riot as tensions escalated.
At least three people have been arrested so far. Anyone traveling was encouraged to avoid the downtown area.
Rallies began at noon and a march started at about 3 p.m. Portland police reported members of an anarchist group threw smoke bombs and other objects at police officers at about 4:10 p.m.
Police said protesters with children should leave the march. About 10 minutes later they told everyone to disperse.
At 4:30 p.m. police said the permitted march was canceled as it was an "unlawful march" based on the violence. Police said anyone in the roadway was subject to arrest.
Police fired non-lethal weapons at protesters, according to KGW reporters on the scene. Protesters burned objects, including road cones and a Portland Tribune newspaper stand, in the streets. Police reported that protesters threw Molotov cocktails and fireworks at officers.
Riot police then ran at the protesters and extinguished the flames. Police officially called the march a riot at 5 p.m. Police confirmed at least three people were arrested but many more could be seen detained, lying on Portland streets.
Damage, including broken windows, was reported at multiple downtown locations.
At 5:30 p.m. police said the situation was beginning to calm down.
Before the march, Portland police said they were prepared to make arrests like they have in the past.
“Traffic officers will be helping escort the march through downtown we'll have other officers on bike and on foot,” said Sgt. Pete Simpson with Portland Police.
They also had riot gear on hand just in case.
“We don't like to bring that out unless we have to," Simpson said. "Sometimes it's to let people know that are in the crowd that are intent on doing things like violence or damage, it's to let them know that we're there and we're not going to stand for that."
There were three scheduled events in Portland on Monday. One, a permitted rally organized by the Portland May Day Coalition, started at Shemanski Park in Downtown Portland at noon. The march began at 3 p.m. with a scheduled end time of 5 p.m.
A rally at Portland State began at noon. Those in attendance marched to Shemanski Park at 1 p.m. to join the larger rally and march.
Mid-day Monday, the scene was peaceful. Friends Marian Drake and Martin Anderson attended the Portland rally and watched from a nearby park bench as they held balloons supporting the International Workers Union.
"Things are so screwed up in this country. You've got a city right here that's full of homeless people and you've got a president ...whose budget is going to cut 40 percent to the EPA and end Meals on Wheels. We don't like those kinds of things," Anderson said.
Across the street, friends Josh Elms and Ryan Falck sported red scarves and carried small Soviet flags as they prepared to march in support of workers' rights.
Elms, a teacher's aide who teaches kindergarteners how to read, said it was his first political rally and march and Trump's election drove him to participate.
"This is the first actual protest that I've participated in because this year, with the election, I was flummoxed," he said. "I could not believe that the election went the way it did. I do not have words."
A second event, being put on by the Anarchist Student Union, began at 1 p.m. That group -- about 100 said on Facebook they would show up -- also participated in the 3 p.m. march. Their Facebook event page said they would go until 11 p.m.
Before the rally and march, Lili Elbe, a spokesperson for the Portland May Day Coalition, said the purpose of Monday's rally and march was to show solidarity.
“We are here today to show support and solidarity with International Workers Day, it’s an international movement,” Elbe said. “We are here to show solidarity with immigrant movements, worker movements, indigenous, land reformation movements, the world over.
May Day marches in downtown Portland
Reporter Mike Benner is live in downtown Portland, where several groups are marching for May Day. Story: http://on.kgw.com/2qts14wPosted by KGW-TV on Monday, May 1, 2017
“This has been a movement that has been building for decades, in the past few years we have seen steady growth, increase in discontentment from people who want to make their voices heard. We are here with about 60 organizations represented, different community organizations and national organizations."
Elbe also said she and the May Day Coalition was aware of the anarchist group and believed the group was not planning to create mayhem.
“We are cooperating with them in an effort to make this event as safe as possible," Elbe said. "They aren’t here to crash our march, or to make anything else unsafe. They are doing their own thing."
In Salem, several hundred people, many of them immigrants, gathered for a rally on the steps of the Oregon State Capitol. Speakers said they would not be intimidated by any crackdowns on immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally. One protester carried a sign saying bridges should be built instead of walls, referring to President Donald Trump's plans to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown also appeared. The Democratic governor said that as long as she's in office, Oregon will be welcoming and inclusive to all those who call the state home.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
May Day rallies around the world marked by violence, demonstrations
Demonstrators with a laundry list of grievances rallied in New York, teachers picketed in Philadelphia and police in Paris fired tear gas to disperse angry political protesters Monday as May Day was marked with events around the world.
May Day, also known as International Workers' Day, annually prompts rallies highlighting workers’ rights. In the U.S., hundreds of thousands of demonstrators across the nation were expected to turn out, many protesting the policies of President Trump.
In New York, chants of “Sí se puede” and “the people united will never be defeated” bellowed through Union Square Park. Demonstrators came from across the nation to protest a variety of issues ranging from the Black Lives Matter movement and refugees, to climate change and the Puerto Rico debt crisis.
“We’re seeing a consistent awakening of people to the realities of the Trump administration," Bernadette Ellorin, 40, one of the event's organizers, told USA TODAY. She said Trump supporters and the mainstream media think of such efforts as "small and ineffective."
"If you study history it is these type of actions, the people marching on the streets, that actually make history," she said. "So this is our contribution towards making history, towards making change.”
In Philadelphia, the focus was more local for teachers who shut down a busy section of North Broad Street to protest the lack of a contract. About 1,000 of them skipped school, many taking personal time to highlight what they view as unfair working conditions, philly.com reported.
In France, scores of hooded youths threw firebombs at security forces as the country’s main unions drew a massive turnout for a “day of mobilization” against far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, the Associated Press reported. Le Pen faces a runoff election Sunday against centrist Emmanuel Macron.
In Russia, about 1.5 million people rallied in Moscow "but public order has not been violated," a city police spokesman told the state-run TASS news agency.
In Greece, thousands rallied in Athens against austerity measures that have increased working hours, cut salaries and weakened protections for workers. Speakers called for a general strike May 17.
"We are still fighting for eight-hour shifts, we are still fighting for permanent positions," marcher Christos Zarkinos told Anadolu Agency news service.
In the U.S., protesters were planning marches for issues ranging from immigrants' rights to LGBT awareness to police misconduct.
“There’s a real galvanization of all the groups this year,” said Fernanda Durand of CASA in Action, which will lead a march of about 10,000 people for immigrants' rights through downtown Washington. “Our presence in this country is being questioned by Donald Trump. We are tired of being demonized and scapegoated. We’ve had enough.”
Erick Sanchez, another Washington-based organizer, said he’s seen the melding of different groups in previous events this year, from the Women’s March on Washington to climate change awareness protests. Monday will be the culmination of gelling these disparate groups, he said.
“There’s really a sense that we’re in this together,” he said. “That an attack on one is an attack on all.”
Trump released a statement Friday declaring May 1 “Loyalty Day” as a way to “recognize and reaffirm our allegiance to the principles” upon which America was built, calling on all government buildings to display the U.S. flag and schools to observe the holiday with ceremonies.
Originally a pagan celebration dating back two millennia and heralding the return of spring, May Day has morphed into a global observance of workers’ rights. But its emergence as an international workers' rights day actually arose from a May 1, 1886, Chicago strike for the eight-hour workday.
Durand said her group will march near the White House and culminate with speeches from immigrants and elected officials. More than 200 immigrant-owned businesses in the area will also shut down, she said.
“We’re going to be able to show we are one voice, one people speaking for those whose lives are being trampled on,” Durand said.
USA TODAY reporters John Bacon , Eli Blumenthal and Rick Jervis contributed to this report.
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