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Fires and Pepper Spray in Seattle as Police Protests Widen Across U.S.

SEATTLE — Weeks of violent clashes between federal agents and protesters in Portland, Ore., galvanized thousands of people to march through the streets of American cities on Saturday, injecting new life into protests that had largely waned in recent weeks.

The most intense protest was in Seattle, where three police officers were injured, including one who was hospitalized with a leg injury caused by an explosive. More than two dozen protesters had been arrested as of early evening, the police said.

Carrying signs such as “Feds Go Home” and shouting chants of “No justice, no peace,” the protesters stopped at the site of a future youth detention center and lit buildings there on fire. Some smashed windows of nearby businesses.

The police confronted the crowd, deploying flash grenades and pepper spray before taking people into custody.

In Los Angeles, protesters clashed with officers in front of the federal courthouse downtown. Videos showed people smashing windows and lobbing water bottles at officers after protesters said the police fired projectiles at them.

The federal courthouse in Portland has been the scene of nightly, chaotic demonstrations for weeks, which looked likely to continue again on Saturday, as thousands participated in marches around the city, the 58th consecutive day of protests there. A group of nurses in scrubs joined an organized group of mothers in helmets and fathers in hard hats, all assembled against the fence of a federal courthouse where federal agents — a deployment that has been a key focus of the recent demonstrations — have been assembled.

Protesters in several cities said the smoke-filled videos of federal agents firing tear gas and shoving protesters in Portland had brought them to the streets on Saturday.

“Portland is leading,” said Chantelle Hershberger, an organizer with Refuse Fascism who was part of the Los Angeles activists protesting the presence of federal agents in Portland, where city officials have opposed the presence of the federal officers. “They’re showing what it looks like to stay in the streets despite police oppression, despite the federal forces being sent in. This kind of energy is actually what’s needed.”

Bipasha Mukherjee, 52, of Kirkland, Wash., said she has been protesting on the streets since May and said it was worrisome to her to see such aggressive tactics by the police.

“This is not the country I immigrated to,” said Ms. Mukherjee, who arrived from India more than 30 years ago. “It feels like we are rapidly becoming a fascist state and a police state.”

Michaud Savage of Seattle said the protests there were aimed at both local authorities and the deployment of federal officers who have waged a crackdown against a long-running protest in Portland. Mr. Savage said the law enforcement tactics in Portland, which have included the use of tear gas and crowd-control munitions, were dangerous and inappropriate.

“It’s a very hard slide in an extremely violent direction,” Mr. Savage said as he washed his eyes of pepper spray and nursed a wound on his arm from a flash grenade.

Other demonstrations took place on Saturday in New York, Omaha and Oakland, Calif., among other cities. At a protest in Aurora, Colo., a hectic scene played out as people marched along an interstate highway.

During that protest, someone drove a car into demonstrators, the Aurora Police Department said, although it was unclear if the car struck any protesters. The police said a protester had also “decided to fire off a weapon,” which struck at least one other person. That person was taken to a hospital and was in stable condition, the police said, and a second person later showed up to the hospital with a graze wound.

In addition to marching in solidarity with the Portland protesters, the demonstration in Aurora was also in response to the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old massage therapist who died several days after officers put him in a chokehold last summer.

Mr. McClain’s death was one of several that have occurred in police custody around the country that received fresh attention following the death in police custody of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May. Mr. Floyd’s death ignited mass protests that drew millions to the streets in dozens of cities, but the demonstrations waned in most places.

Seattle and Portland, however, have seen extended demonstrations. Seattle protesters at one point laid claim to several blocks of the Capitol Hill neighborhood and declared an autonomous zone. After a series of shootings there led the police to clear the area, protests had subsided.

Protests in Portland, meanwhile, have continued, with some of the heaviest demonstrations around federal buildings in the city. After President Trump issued an executive order to protect statues and federal property, the Department of Homeland Security deployed tactical teams to the city, beginning a series of clashes that have resulted in injured protesters, inspector general investigations and calls from local leaders for federal agents to leave.

Protest crowds in that city have swelled into the thousands, and demonstrations there were continuing. This week, federal officials deployed a tactical team to Seattle, and protesters cited that development as one reason for Saturday’s demonstrations.

While the Portland protests have centered in downtown, the demonstrations on Saturday roamed areas east of the downtown core, where the city’s federal courthouse is.

Mike Baker reported from Seattle and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs from New York. Aimee Ortiz in New York, Hallie Golden in Seattle and Sergio Olmos in Portland, Ore., contributed reporting.

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