TriMet considering suspending service downtown Friday afternoon due to protests

Ahead of a handful of large protests planned for Inauguration Day, TriMet is considering suspending all service in downtown Portland Friday afternoon.

Thousands of people took to Portland streets on Election Day last year and the ensuing days, blocking highways and main thoroughfares, forcing TriMet to delay buses and MAX trains.

More than 10,000 people have RSVP'd on Facebook to attend a protest called "RISE UP and Resist Fascism Inauguration Day Protest," set to begin at 3:30 p.m. at Pioneer Courthouse Square.

In a news conference Thursday afternoon, a TriMet official backed off the agency's initial statement, which said all service would be suspended Friday afternoon.

Now, it appears as though TriMet is only preparing, or considering suspending service if protests get out of hand. They say their customers and employees were harassed during the last round of protests, and would simply like to keep everyone safe.

"During Friday’s planned protest, TriMet plans to provide service into and out of downtown Portland. TriMet appreciates the support of the Portland Police Bureau, under the direction of Portland Mayor Wheeler, who have committed to assisting in keeping our transit system moving. However, if protests become violent and unsafe for our employees and riders, we will alter our service and may temporarily suspend it in the downtown core," Roberta Altstadt with TriMet said in a statement.

"We have to weigh the governmental interest in that, but when folks are getting bats out and breaking windows, that's easily over the line and we will take action to try and stop that," Portland Police Chief Mike Marshman said.

No details have been released, and according to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, TriMet made the initial decision to shut off service without his input.

"The police chief and I have planned a thoughtful strategy to protect commuters and protesters on Friday. Further, we have aimed to provide clear, consistent information to the public about planned protests and our expectations. TriMet, an independent entity, makes their own decisions regarding their operations," Wheeler wrote on Twitter. "I have spoken to Neil McFarlane, TriMet's general manager. I told him we are well-prepared to minimize disruptions and protect riders."

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