PORTLAND, Oregon - For two straight months, unrest and violence have been ongoing in Portland where the federal courthouse has been a flashpoint for both protests and riots, including burning Bibles and the American flag. The Trump administration and city officials are trying to find a solution, and some Christian leaders are also looking for answers.
The nightly riots have drawn thousands to this city park in front of Portland's federal courthouse. Some say they are protesting for racial justice, others want to defund the police nationwide.
While CBN News was there, windows were smashed, buildings defaced, and fires burned nightly around the courthouse, but Portland mayor and police commissioner Ted Wheeler ignored the conduct, even joining the protesters in calling for federal police to leave the area.
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This CBN reporter observed many different kinds of makeshift weapons out here including shields, baseball bats, tennis rackets, green lasers, frozen water bottles, glass bottles, and things like that. The protesters beat on the doors of the federal building for about ten minutes, essentially begging the cops to come out. The cops finally obliged, came out, and pushed everybody back, which led to a standoff.
While many of the signs call for the police to be defunded or abolished, it's clear their intentions are not to increase personal freedom.
Antifa agitators could be seen blocking roads and trying to limit the freedom of the press. One Antifa organizer shouted, "Video the police, not the protesters."
When a black Trump supporter was discovered in the crowd, protesters immediately called in the mob.
It was abundantly clear most of those participating in the riots don't want to abolish the police, but instead want to become the police.
Some local Christians have been trying to be positive in the midst of these riots. Pastor J.W. Matt Hennessee from Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church Portland said, "As a leader, I'm often asked to speak, and during the entire period, I've said, I just want to listen. I want to show up."
"I have trouble with people who set fires on purpose or people who write graffiti all over the place and stuff like that, who bash in windows and loot stores. I have a real problem with all of that, but that's why inside, I'm saying, 'Lord, you've got to help me understand what that person sees that I don't'."
Tensions eased somewhat over the weekend as federal agents were replaced by Seattle police officers who must follow much more restrictive rules of crowd control measures. But that didn't stop protesters from burning American flags and even Bibles. How that relates to racial justice wasn't immediately clear. But Pastor Hennessee says there is a role for Christians to play.
"We need to pray for the ability to listen, to learn and to find out how God wants us to engage and to do that in a very, very like, intentional way for us to be able to be used by God, as instruments in this space," Hennessee said.