Demonstrators gather outside the state Capitol on Sunday, May 31, to protest police violence. The protests in Salem were among those that occurred across the country in response to the death of George Floyd, a Minneapolis man who died while being taken into custody by police. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)
Update: This story was updated to reflect that the Marion County District Attorney’s Office on June 29, 2020 dismissed criminal charges against all 14 people arrested during protests the previous month.
Salem City Manager Steve Powers imposed a curfew as the Oregon’s second largest city prepares for its third night of protests and possible violence and property damage.
For the third night in a row, protesters will take to Salem streets Monday night to protest police violence.
Protests have sprung up in cities across the country after a video emerged of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, an African American man who died. Chauvin has since been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Tonight, organizers plan a candlelight vigil starting at the Capitol at 8 p.m., followed by a march to the new Salem police headquarters, located at the corners of Commercial and Division streets N.E. There, marchers plan to again light candles to honor Floyd.
The march was originally scheduled for earlier but pushed back so it wouldn’t conflict with a Salem-Keizer NAACP meeting.
On a Facebook event page, organizers asked marchers to keep the demonstration peaceful.
On Sunday night, demonstrators marched through the city from the Capitol, blocking and mixing with traffic. Police arrested 13 people, a contrast to the first night of protests Saturday where police officials said they were too short-handed to make arrests.
On Monday afternoon, Powers has again imposed a curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. the next day. The notice of the declaration cited rioting and destruction of property that have occurred elsewhere and bans travel in public places during this time. The order makes exceptions such as for law enforcement, people traveling to or from work, those seeking medical care, unsheltered individuals.
Protests proceeded both Saturday and Sunday nights despite a curfew being imposed by Powers.
Gregg Simpson, a music events organizer born and raised in Salem, said he’s planning to attend Monday’s vigil.
Simpson is also organizing a march in memory of George Floyd at the Capitol for Saturday, June 6, where participants will lay silently on their stomachs for nine minutes, re-enacting Floyd’s death.
“I’m trying to show Minneapolis that we stand with them, they’re not alone,” Simpson said.
He also hoped the events would awaken Salem residents he said are ignoring Floyd’s death.
Vandalism and confrontations with the police followed protests on both Saturday and Sunday. Other cities, including Portland, have seen rioting and Salem police will be monitoring the situation closely.
On Monday afternoon, Gov. Kate Brown announced that she would be sending 100 state troopers to help Portland police. National Guard will be “integrated” with state troopers. On a press call, Superintendent Travis Hampton that 50 National Guard personnel would be present in a support role. Brown said she didn’t intend to have soldiers march in streets, as President Donald Trump has called for.
Brown said that the death of Floyd and others stemmed from the failure to follow through on reforms around police accountability and mass incarceration. She also condemned rioting.
“Senseless violence does not honor George Floyd’s death or create accountability,” she said.
Lt. Treven Upkes of the Salem Police Department said that Sunday’s protest began with a peaceful group holding a Black Lives Matter vigil. But once they left, he said the protest was “co-opted by “people who just want to cause some chaos.” He said that Saturday’s protest followed a similar pattern and it’s possible that tonight could as well.
He said that after the vigil ended on Sunday, a group attempted to occupy the Center Street Bridge and began throwing glass, bricks, explosive devices and other objects once police blocked them.
“It didn’t seem like they were out for dialogue at that point,” he said.
While the protests have not been sanctioned by the city, he said that Salem police have had good communications with organizers.
Upkes didn’t have a complete list of property that was damaged during Saturday and Sunday. But he said there was vandalism to state property, including graffiti on statues at the Capitol, and businesses saw broken glass doors and windows.
On Sunday Salem police arrested four juveniles who have since been released to their parents. Police also arrested nine adults who are being held in the Marion County Correctional Facility.
Alexander Carter, 19 of Salem, was arrested for riot, attempt to elude, reckless driving, reckless endangering, resisting arrest and interfering with police. According to Salem police, Carter was driving through downtown in the 900 block of Court Street and began to perform an uncontrolled spin out in the street, narrowly missing several protesters.
After pursuing the vehicle, police arrested Carter, who had his minor niece and nephew (12 and 15) with him in the vehicle, who were not harmed and released to their family, according to police.
Additionally, Salem residents Jamie Dehart Jr, 20; Monica Morales-Angel, 21; Jordan Wark, 19; David Waterhouse, 34; Bryce Scanlon, 21; Brian Smith, 24; and Pablo Perez (age not given) were arrested for riot, interfering, second-degree disorderly conduct, and second-degree trespass. According to police, the individuals were arrested after ignoring orders to disperse.
Jose Cruz Ibarra Barker, 24, of Salem, was arrested for second-degree trespass and interfering with police after fleeing from officers attempting to disperse the crowd.
On June 29, 2020, the Marion County District Attorney’s Office dismissed criminal charges against 14 people arrested during protests the previous month. Deputy District Attorney Amy Queen said attorneys did a full review of the cases and determined they didn’t meet the threshold for the office to continue prosecuting them.
Jim Vu, treasurer of the Salem Main Street Association, said he was up until the early morning hours on Sunday and Monday keeping an eye on a property he owns in downtown.
He said that The Kitchen on Court Street, located in the building he owns at 466 Court St N.E., had its soft launch on Saturday and he was up until 3 a.m. the next morning making sure it wasn’t damaged.
Vu said he and others sat in chairs outside the restaurant and played vinyl records of Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald loud enough to be heard on the street. He said that he hoped that the music and having people seated outside would produce a peaceful atmosphere for protesters passing by. He said his strategy worked and there was never a moment he worried the building would be damaged.
He described how other business owners also stood outside of their shops. While he said there is now more graffiti downtown and a handful of businesses had smashed windows or doors, he said that the vandalism in downtown Salem was not as bad compared to other cities.
“Salem police did an amazing job of helping herd the cats,” he said.
He said that he’s supportive of protesters seeking to call out and address institutional racism. But he said that vandals undermine the message of peaceful protesters.
“The goal of the protest is to make positive change and I hope that comes out of this,” he said.
Correction: This article was update to correctly list George Chauvin’s charges.