PORTLAND, Ore. — There's an eerie view outside the Portland hotel that the Vancouver Whitecaps call home.
“It’s kind of like Gotham City. Everything is boarded up," forward Tosaint Ricketts said Friday. "In the nights, you’re going to hear weird sounds, people running through the streets, fire crackers, yelling."
Protests against systemic racism have been a near nightly affair in Oregon's largest city since late May when George Floyd, a Black man, was killed by police in Minneapolis.
While the demonstrations have often been peaceful, additional groups took to the streets following this week's election and tensions grew.
"It just seems uneasy. There’s an uneasy feeling about the city right now," Ricketts said. "And I think that’s just consistent throughout the whole USA, you know? And obviously everyone’s waiting for the polls to come in, the votes to come in and the decision to be made. But you kind of get that uneasy feeling when you step out of the hotel.”
Local police declared a riot Wednesday night after protesters broke the windows of downtown businesses and threw fireworks at officers. Gov. Kate Brown activated the National Guard and issued an executive order to help control the situation.
The Multnomah County Sheriff's department said Wednesday that officers seized a number of items from people in the streets, including a loaded rifle, commercial-grade fireworks, hammers and knives.
On Thursday, a group threw burning flares and balloons filled with paint at a city commissioner's home after he voted against a proposal to cut funds for the city's police force. A door at Portland's city hall was also set on fire.
National Guard members and police officers are now stationed directly outside of the downtown hotel where the 'Caps have lived since mid-September when border restrictions forced all three Canadian Major League Soccer teams to relocate south for the duration of the season.
The team has gotten used to hearing the noise in the streets, said coach Marc Dos Santos.
"When you walk in the city, it looks like another country is coming to attack the country right now. You see it, you feel it. You don’t want to be outside too much. We’re just used to it right now," he said, adding that players and staff are always careful to be inside before the 10 p.m. curfew.
“And then we look at the show from our windows.”
Many of the protesters seem young, around 14 or 15 years old, Dos Santos said.
“It reminds me of Halloween sometimes," he said. "They have their masks, they’re kids screaming. That’s what I’m seeing.”
While the situation has forced many nearby businesses to board up their windows, the protests have had little impact on the Whitecaps' ability to train or play.
Dos Santos said the only time the team has been affected came Wednesday when players and staff had to wait about 15 minutes to board a bus to their training site because protesters were going by.
"I think everybody (on the team) is taking it in a very calm way," the coach said. "Nobody’s stressed about it. It’s out of our control.”
There are moments when fears of worst-case scenarios creep in, admitted midfielder Russell Teibert, but those concerns are quickly quelled.
“We’re in a safe place and I don’t think anybody’s too worried," he said. "We’ve been a family together down here, eating dinners together, all our meals together, taking care of each other. So we feel safe.”
Still, the Whitecaps are looking forward to getting back home to Canada. The team plays its' last game of the season Sunday, hosting the L.A. Galaxy at Providence Park.
— By Gemma Karstens-Smith in Vancouver
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 7, 2020.
The Canadian Press