Posted on August 10, 2020

Portland: Amid Nightly Protests, Pipe Bombs Explode in Laurelhurst Park

Suzette Smith and Justin Yau, Willamette Week, August 9, 2020

A weekend of protests across Portland featured a series of now familiar scenes: hundreds of people blocking traffic, hurling eggs, apples and insults; police officers tackling, pepper-spraying and arresting fleeing demonstrators; and a riot declared after someone started a fire inside police union headquarters.

But early Saturday morning brought a disturbing new element: Protesters allege someone threw pipe bombs at them while they were gathered in Laurelhurst Park.

Around 2:30 am on Aug. 8, a group of legal observers and journalists, including reporter Justin Yau, met up near Laurelhurst Park, at the corner of Southeast Ankeny Street and César E. Chávez Boulevard. Abruptly, they saw a white light flash over the park’s tall Douglas firs and heard an explosion, followed by a deep reverberation. The noise was much louder than the fireworks typically thrown at protests. So when a second explosion sounded, they stopped talking and ran toward the sound into the darkened park.

By the public restrooms on the park’s north side, they found 20 protesters gathered around a small device, examining and dismantling it. One of the protesters explained to the reporters that the group had just evaded several thrown pipe bombs.

“Two of these were thrown at us by a gentleman who disappeared back into the woods,” the protester said, asking that her name be withheld out of concern for her safety. “This is a Ziploc bag full of gunpowder, taped as tight as it can go, fit into [a PVC pipe], and the idea is that it would explode. But only one went off. This one was a dud,” she said, gesturing to the dismantled contents.

“Five minutes later, one or two other gentlemen came from the dark parts of the area and threw one or two more and they exploded,” she added, saying the group was lucky the first bomb was a dud because it gave them a moment to step back before the second exploded.

Other protesters in the group confirmed the account, seeming tired and shaken. The group alleged four or five explosives had been thrown in total.


Several protesters claimed to know the man’s identity, but WW was unable to independently verify who he was.