• Sun. Apr 11th, 2021


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Protesters in Portland Topple Statues of Lincoln and Roosevelt

SEATTLE — Protesters in Portland, Ore., swept through the city on Sunday night, toppling statues of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt and damaging the entrance to the Oregon Historical Society in a demonstration against colonization and the treatment of Native Americans.

Protests around the country this year have mainly targeted statues featuring slave owners and symbols of the Confederacy, but the demonstrators in Portland focused on the 1920s statues of the former presidents as part of a protest billed as an “Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage.”

President Trump seized on the toppling of the statues on Monday morning, citing the destruction as a reason to vote for him next month. “The Radical Left fools in Portland don’t want any help from real Law Enforcement which we will provide instantaneously,” he wrote on Twitter. “Vote!”

Lincoln has long been celebrated as the president who brought an end to slavery in the United States, but the protesters sprayed the base of his statute in Portland with “Dakota 38” — a reference to the largest mass execution in U.S. history, in which 38 Dakota Indians were sent to the gallows in 1862, accused of killing settlers in raids.

Lincoln had signed the execution order. He had also expressed worry about the rapid speed and lack of evidence presented at military tribunals that led to the death sentences; he commuted the sentences of 265 others who had been tried.

Credit…Mason Trinca for The New York Times

Roosevelt has been scrutinized over his opinions about racial hierarchy and his role in the Spanish-American War. He endorsed eugenics proposals. He was quoted as saying it would be better if almost all Native Americans were dead.

Mayor Ted Wheeler was among those who criticized Sunday’s destruction. He was joined at a news conference by Tawna D. Sanchez, a Native American state legislator who lives in Portland. She said that those who want to change the city’s statues could do that through city processes.

“We don’t have to do it by tearing things down, because it’s not helping,” she said.

Statues have remained an area of focus around the country. In Santa Fe, N.M., on Monday, protesters toppled an obelisk that was inscribed to honor people who died battling “savage” Indians.

Protests in Portland have persisted in the months since Minneapolis police officers killed George Floyd in May, sparking nationwide protests for racial justice and against police brutality. While much of the focus of demonstrations has been on how Black people have been harmed, the protests have at times highlighted other causes, including the need for societal reforms to address transgender rights, economic disparities and Native Americans.

On Sunday night, journalists in Portland reported that crowds had smashed windows and spray-painted graffiti at other locations, including the Oregon Historical Society and several businesses. The Portland police later declared the gathering a riot and dispersed the crowd, making three arrests.

One of the people arrested was driving a van suspected of helping pull down the Roosevelt statue, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office said on Monday. Prosecutors said that person, Brandon Bartells, has been charged with damaging a historic statue.

Kerry Tymchuk, the executive director of the historical society, said the items inside the society’s building were left untouched, except for a quilt sewn by a group of Black women over the course of three years in the 1970s. The quilt was removed from the building by protesters and was later found several blocks away. It was “very wet” — probably as a result of the rain — but Mr. Tymchuk said he hoped it could be put on display again.

Mr. Trump, who is seeking to make a law-and-order case for re-election, has repeatedly highlighted unrest in Portland. On Monday, he sent a series of tweets about the Portland statues, calling the protesters “animals” and calling for the F.B.I. to help contain them.

“Portland, call in the Feds!” Mr. Trump tweeted.

The deployment of federal agents to crack down on Portland protesters this year drew thousands of demonstrators into the street for nightly clashes in front of the federal courthouse. That came after Mr. Trump directed federal agencies to deploy additional personnel to protect statues, monuments and federal property. After state and federal officials came to an agreement to pull back federal agents, the protests have waned in size.

Sunday’s gathering included about 200 people.