Several protesters were arrested during a demonstration in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in Southwest Portland on Wednesday evening. During the arrests, police officers put hoods and earmuffs over the protesters’ heads. Police later said they used the hoods and earmuffs for protesters’ protection.
A few dozen protesters with the group End Deportations Now Collaboration lined up in front of the building on Wednesday afternoon to block a bus taking undocumented immigrants to a Tacoma detention center. Five had their arms bound together, forming a human chain in front of the building.
The protesters chanted and sang for hours outside the building, as security guards looked on from inside and Federal Protective Services and Portland police officers stood by.
Federal Protective Services officers began to arrest protesters at about 5:30 p.m., after officers warned protesters to disperse, according to reports by Portland Mercury reporter Doug Brown, who witnessed the arrests.
Videos from the protest show Portland police officers putting hoods and earmuffs over the heads of protesters who were bound together.
Amina Rahman was one of those protesters. She said officers told the protesters that they were using the hoods and earmuffs to protect them from loud tools as officers cut them apart. Officers also tied a tourniquet around her arm, she said, which they told her would stop bleeding if they accidentally cut her.
But Rahman didn’t hear any loud noises from tools. She believes the officers were using a “scare tactic,” she said, not protecting protesters.
Portland police spokesman Sgt. Chris Burley said that officers cut the protesters’ bindings after Federal Protective Services officers asked them to remove the bindings several times.
Officers had to use tools that caused sparks to cut the protesters apart, he said in an email. They used flame-retardant hoods and earmuffs to protect protesters from sparks or loud noises from the tools, he said.
The protesters bound themselves together using plastic pipe, yarn, fabric, chicken wire, steel bolts and chains, Burley said.
Officers who inspected the bindings, which are commonly called “Sleeping Dragons,” believed the protesters had used metal pipes, which would have created sparks when cut, Burley said.
“That is why protective attire was placed on the protesters to ensure their safety during the cutting process,” he said in an email.
None of the protesters were injured when their bindings were removed, he said.
Six protesters, including three of the demonstrators who were taped together, were arrested, organizers said. A Federal Protective Services spokesman could not be reached to confirm the number of arrests Wednesday evening.
The group arrived at the ICE offices at about 3 p.m. to block a bus heading to Tacoma, said organizer Kari Koch.
Koch said she didn’t know how many people are on the bus, but the group wants to stop all deportations.
“If it’s one or a dozen, it’s too many,” she said. “We want to end deportations.”
An ICE spokeswoman declined to comment on specifics about the protest or any immigrants on the bus, directing questions to the Department of Homeland Security. A Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman did not return a request for comment on Wednesday evening.
Peter Parks, a 74-year-old activist, was one of the people with his arm taped to another protester. Parks said he was demonstrating to spread the message that deportations break up families.
“We’re linking arms in solidarity with all the detainees who are in Tacoma and other detention centers around the country,” he said.
After the protesters were arrested, the bus left the ICE building, Rahman said. She was disappointed, but the fight was not over, she said.
“We’ll be back,” she said. “Portland has a lot of work to do to become a true sanctuary city.”