US election: Portland braces for unrest whoever wins the White House

Lucy Sherriff reports from the Oregoncity, which has had months of political turmoil

Portland residents are concerned about unrest in the city. Lucy Sherriff for The National
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Portland residents are bracing themselves for unrest in their neighbourhoods over the following days, regardless of which way the election goes.

In a city rocked by violent protests and clashes between anti-fascist movement Antifa and right-wing groups such as the Proud Boys, businesses are boarding up shopfronts in anticipation of days of political turmoil.

Events planned for late on Tuesday included one organised by non-affiliated Black Lives Matter group PDX BLM, which promised to bring disruption to life in the city.

In the Trump camp, a sold-out celebration party organised by Oregonians for Trump had supporters clamouring to be on its waiting list.

“I’m going to be hunkering down tonight,” says Paulina Polbyumptewa, 22, a student originally from Arizona.

“I’m most concerned because I think regardless of what happens [with the vote], people are going to have opinions about it.”

She said she was worried about police arresting demonstrators this evening so that they will be off the streets.

“There’ll be a knock-on effect and if there are a lot of people out protesting tonight, it potentially means less for tomorrow,” Ms Polbyumptewa said.

One policeman said he did “not know what was going to happen tonight”, but that officers were prepared.

“Obviously we’ve seen riots and protests here for the past few months,” he said.

“The city has tried everything to curb [the violence] but nothing’s worked yet. I’m hoping it will be like last night, which was quiet, but really, nobody knows.”

Monday evening was relatively quiet for a city plagued by civil disruption.

Two people were arrested after law enforcement officers dispersed a crowd, dressed in black, who were marching through the city centre and attacked a Starbucks and the campus safety office at Portland State University.

A state of emergency was declared by Oregon Governor Kate Brown in anticipation of election-motivated violence, beginning at 5pm Pacific Standard Time on Monday and ending at 5pm on Wednesday.

“I want to be very, very clear that voter intimidation and political violence will not be tolerated,” Ms Brown said.

“Not from the left, not from the right and not from the centre. Not this week, not any week, in Oregon.”

Police officers, who patrolled the streets in central Portland clinging to the side of vans, said the organised gathering was unlawful.

A new unified command structure, led by the Oregon State Police, and Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, was announced on Monday to try to curb any violence more successfully than in the past.

Ruth Garcia, 67, a Portland resident who has lived in Oregon all her life, said she would also stay at home, believing it would not be safe outside.

“Based on what we’ve seen in the city over the past few months, I think it’s going to be an eventful night.”