Thousands of protesters gathered at Portland’s King County clinic on Friday, blocking access to the health care system and threatening to disrupt patients’ care.
The protesters were angered over the release of a video that shows one of their loved ones dying from a suspected coronavirus infection.
The video, which surfaced this week, shows a woman who died at a King County medical center in December after being admitted to a critical care unit for a suspected COVID-19 infection.
At least five patients were later hospitalized with COVID infections.
The coronaviruses are linked to severe respiratory illnesses and strokes, and a person with a COVID infection can die from the virus.
The protest, organized by Portland Medical Center, was the second major demonstration to occur this week in the area.
A group of about 1,000 people blocked traffic in downtown Portland on Friday morning and marched toward the clinic.
Protesters had been in the downtown area since Friday afternoon, marching in a downtown area where police had blocked traffic.
Police said they had no plans to move into the area to arrest protesters, and the protesters were only arrested when they refused to leave the area, a move they later returned to.
Portland Police Chief Greg Suhr said protesters would face criminal charges if they try to interfere with the health system or disrupt the work of doctors.
“It’s very concerning that we would be putting a patient at risk when we’re supposed to be providing care to patients,” Suhr told reporters.
“We want to ensure the patient is safe.
But at the same time, we’re not going to put people at risk by putting our hands on people.”
Protesters also took over the sidewalk, blocking traffic in a parking lot near the clinic as well as in an adjacent shopping center.
They chanted “do not let go,” and some protesters appeared to be using sticks to smash the windows of cars.
The clinic, which serves about 2,300 patients, has a staff of about 20 doctors.
Portland police had asked protesters to leave at 4 p.m. on Friday but protesters continued to block traffic and the entrance to the clinic, according to a police department Twitter feed.
“There is no room to move around here, so we’re asking people to get off,” the police tweet said.
“Please respect our community’s wishes.”
Protesters are demanding that the coronaviral testing centers be opened, as well.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that it was still working to determine the cause of the coronvirus outbreak in the United States, and that no one was at risk.
It was unclear why the coronivirus outbreak had started in the Portland area, but the health department said that coronaviremia has occurred in people who are already infected.
“While coronavvirus is no longer the predominant cause of COVID, we are continuing to assess the cause and are actively monitoring coronavirotic cases,” the department said.
The health department added that there were no immediate changes to plans for the coronacovirus testing centers.
In addition to the King County Clinic, protesters gathered in other locations in the city, including at the city’s main bus terminal.
Portland officials said the demonstrations could cause additional disruption to business and that they were taking precautions to protect the health of the public.
“The protests will continue through the day,” Suh said.
Police also said they would continue to monitor the demonstrations and were urging people to avoid the area if possible.
A Portland Police Bureau spokesperson said in a statement that officers were still assessing the situation.
“Preliminary information indicates that there is an active protest planned outside of the King Health Center in the vicinity of the hospital.
At this time, the Portland Police are monitoring the situation closely and taking precautions for the safety of the city,” the statement said.
Follow Jill Denny on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jennydenny