About 250 people in Portland joined nationwide protests Friday night sparked by two cases in which grand juries decided not to indict white police officers who killed black men.

The group snarled traffic in downtown Portland that was already congested during First Friday Artwalk, with police blocking off part of Congress Street for the monthly event. But the event was peaceful and police said no arrests were made.

Shouting, “Eric Garner, Michael Brown, shut this racist system down,” the diverse group of protesters marched from Congress Square to the intersection of High and Spring streets, where they laid down to symbolically represent black men who were killed by police.

Brown was shot by an officer in Ferguson, Missouri, this summer, and protesters have said he was trying to surrender at the time. Garner died after he was grabbed by police officers in New York City and a medical examiner ruled his death a homicide because of a chokehold used by one of the officers. Neither officer was indicted after the cases were taken to grand juries, sparking nationwide outrage and protests in dozens of cities.

Many of the protesters wore signs saying, “I can’t breathe,” Garner’s last words that were caught on a videotape of his arrest. Others held signs saying. “Black lives matter.”

The Portland protest, which was organized by a group calling itself Portland’s Racial Justice Congress, began with 4 1/2 minutes of silence for Brown, a reference to the 4 1/2 hours Brown’s body was left on the Ferguson street where he died.

Then, watched by about 10 Portland police officers, they marched through the intersection of Congress and High streets, where police had already cut off traffic, partly due to the Congress Street shutdown for the Artwalk.

The group proceeded down High Street, disrupting the copper beech tree lighting at the Portland Museum of Art’s McLellan House. A choir singing Christmas carols was overwhelmed by the chanting of “No Justice, No Peace” and the reading of dozens of names of black men allegedly beaten or killed by police around the country,

One woman on the sidewalk for the tree-lighting muttered, “I’m sympathetic, but their timing isn’t great.” She declined to provide her name.

The protesters blocked the intersection of High and Spring streets by laying down on the frigid pavement, but the choir managed to get in “What Child is This?” and “Gloria in Excelsis” before the protesters got up and the chanting resumed.

The group then moved down Spring Street to State Street, where they marched against traffic through lines of cars.

One protester said a driver yelled, “What about our rights?” as the marchers walked by.

The group then turned back on Congress Street, marching east. Police cut off traffic to Congress Street at State Street and the marchers continued to the Portland Police Department on Middle Street.

Police Chief Michael Sauschuck, who was on hand to observe the protest, said the marchers hadn’t obtained a permit and kept police guessing about where they were going to march. But, he said, the police were mostly concerned with making sure no one was hurt.

“They’re out here expressing their rights and we’re out here to help them,” Sauschuck said.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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