Gunshots were fired about 5 a.m. Saturday morning in the area of Portland City Hall, but no one was injured, according to police.
A protest to raise awareness about homelessness in Maine’s largest city is taking place in the plaza outside City Hall and there were more than 30 protesters in the encampment at the time of the shooting, Lt. Robert Martin, spokesperson for the police, said about four hours after the incident.
Witnesses reported seeing a black car driving east on Congress Street while filming the encampment before making a U-turn in the area of Central Fire Station, according to Martin. The car stopped by Market Street.
A protester from the encampment approached the parked vehicle and threw a firework that exploded near the car, he said. The protester was walking back toward the encampment when the driver of the vehicle discharged several rounds from a handgun before making another U-turn and driving east on Congress Street.
The driver was described as a white male in his 30’s with an athletic build and facial hair.
As officers interviewed witnesses at the scene, two protesters were arrested for interfering with their work. Nicholas Closson, 38, and Jacob Jensen, 31, both of Portland, are charged with obstructing government administration, a misdemeanor.
Detectives are working to identify witnesses and locate video cameras from the area. Anyone with information is asked to call detectives at 874-8575.
“Homelessness is a statewide problem that requires a collaborative response,” Police Chief Frank Clark said Saturday. “The city manager and I both believe that the situation as it exists in City Hall Plaza, however, is unacceptable in terms of public health, public safety and continuity of municipal operations.
“Officers have and will continue to respond to the encampment to address reported drug use, overdoses, indecent conduct, fights and other criminal and violent behavior that now includes gunfire,” he said. “The crowd has surrounded and attempted to physically block first responders from both police and MedCU. Prompt steps need to be taken by the city and community partners to address the situation and enhance the safety of the public and city employees, including my officers.”