Other reports of threats do not materialize
VANCOUVER — The protests of the death of George Floyd reached Clark County Sunday as a group gathered in Esther Short Park in Vancouver.
Floyd died while being taken into custody by law enforcement in Minneapolis, Minn. on May 25. Floyd’s death has sparked protests and demonstrations across the country and beyond in recent days, including in Portland over the weekend where some of the protestors damaged businesses and property, leading to Mayor Ted Wheeler establishing a night curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. That curfew remained in effect Monday night in downtown Portland.
In Vancouver, reports indicated as many as 100 citizens participated in the protest at Esther Short Park. By evening, the group had a few dozen members who were chanting “I can’t breathe,’’ and “Black Lives Matter.’’
There were reports on social media that as the night wore on, the protests led to damage to buildings in the downtown area. However, a tour of downtown Vancouver Monday morning revealed no signs of any property damage.
On Sunday evening, there were also reports on social media that the Vancouver Police Department had received “credible’’ information of a potential threat to the Vancouver Mall. By evening, VPD officers had blocked all entrances to the mall area. There were no reports that the threat materialized.
Walmart reportedly closed many or all of its stores Sunday due to violence against its properties. At the Walmart in Hazel Dell, an employee at the entrance said that store closed at 5:30 p.m. Sunday but would be open for regular hours on Monday, but the store and others in Clark County closed early due to concerns of violence.
Target announced Sunday that it was closing or shortening the hours at about 200 of its stores nationwide, including in the state of Oregon. On Monday, the Target store in Hazel Dell was open for business and there were no reports of any locations in Clark County impacted by the closures.
Statements from mayor, VPD chief
On Saturday, Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle and Vancouver Police Chief James McElvain each issued statements about the death of George Floyd.
“Like many in our community, and throughout the entire country, I was shocked and saddened by the death of George Floyd,’’ McEnerny-Ogle said. “On behalf of the City Council, I extend our condolences to the Floyd family and all the communities profoundly affected by this trauma.
“Over the past few days, demonstrators have gathered in many cities to protest Mr. Floyd’s death. Peaceful, meaningful demonstration is an exercise of our right to free speech and assembly, but it is unfortunate when these protests, including the one in Portland last night, devolve into unlawful, destructive and dangerous activity. The outrage at the root of these protests is understandable but I hope we will see peaceful demonstration and dialogue as the path forward.
“Here in Vancouver, we will continue to protect our community with the professionalism and respect that preserves rights and free speech while effectively serving public safety needs. I am proud to serve as Mayor of a community that honors our differences, values peaceful assembly and exercises its voice without violence. I have the utmost confidence in the Vancouver community to remain peaceful.
Again, I want to express profound sadness over the tragic loss of Mr. Floyd. I also want to express our support to Portland and other cities across the country who have suffered as a result of events over the past several days, but also a recognition that while physical damage to buildings can be repaired, the pain, anger and frustration this damage represents must also be healed.’’
Chief McElvain added the following statement:
“The tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of officers from the Minneapolis Police Department is disturbing, upsetting and heartbreaking. This incident absolutely does not reflect the oath police officers take to serve and protect their communities. The actions depicted in the video of this incident absolutely do not reflect the values of the Vancouver Police Department or the way that we train our officers.
Law enforcement is a profession based on public service, compassion, safety and care for others. Hearing a man begging for his life, saying he cannot breathe, while other officers stand by and do nothing, is not reflective of the values of law enforcement in any way. The result of the actions of a few officers left a scar on the honorable profession of policing, and fractures the hard-earned relationships between the men and women who put on the uniform across our nation each day and the communities they are privileged to serve.
The Vancouver Police Department remains steadfast in our duty to honorably serve the citizens of Vancouver with professionalism and accountability. We are committed to continuing to build relationships with the community, to build trust and to maintain the highest levels of training for our personnel.
Our hearts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Mr. Floyd. I sincerely hope our communities can heal from this tragedy without further violence and division, but rather by seeking to come together peacefully to build relationships and continue to make our communities stronger.’’