As people around the country protest following grand juries’ decisions not to indict the police officers who killed Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Ferguson, demonstrators in Portland took the cause to last night’s Trail Blazers-Pacers game.
Hundreds of protesters converged on the Rose Quarter Thursday night, chanting “I can’t breathe” at riot police stationed at the Moda Center, to decry a New York grand jury’s decision to not indict a white police officer in the chokehold death of an unarmed black man.
About 500 demonstrators had gathered outside the Moda Center, where approximately 30 police officers in riot gear blocked off the south entrance and limited building access. By the time the Trail Blazers game ended after about 9:15 p.m., police had formed a narrow corridor to allow fans to leave.
Officers returned to the lobby after the post-game exodus, prompting cheers from the demonstrators.
“We won tonight!” a protester yelled over a blowhorn. “But this fight does not end until the laws change.”
A team spokesman said despite reports, the arena was never locked down. “Entry into and exit out of Moda were never shut down,” he said in a statement. “As with any event, only ticketed guests were allowed inside. And when guests were ready to leave, they were allowed to do so.”
After the game, Damian Lillard addressed the protest:
It’s a protest. So, their intention is to get people to join them and gather for the cause that they represent. And I’m not mad about it.
In cities where the NBA arena is easily accessible, this seems like a great way to reach a large number of people. I wouldn’t be surprised to see NBA games become the site of more demonstrations as these protests continue.