Multnomah County DA: Most Portland Protesters Won’t Face Charges, Deserve To Be Heard

Flanked by more than a dozen community leaders, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt announced Tuesday that his office will not pursue cases against most Portland protesters.

The new policy states that only demonstrators who were involved in “deliberate property damage, theft or force against another person or threats of force” may face charges.

Schmidt said the prosecution of cases “relating solely to protest activities,” including interfering with police, disorderly conduct, or criminal trespass “have a weak nexus to further criminality.” He also suggested their prosecution unnecessarily siphons crucially needed resources from within the district attorney’s office.

“We recognize that we undermine public safety, not promote it, if we leverage the force of our criminal justice system against peaceful protesters who are demanding to be heard,” he added.

Over more than 70 days of nightly protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, about 550 cases have been referred to Schmidt’s office for misdemeanor or felony prosecution, or a combination of the two.

The rallies in Portland had begun to lose momentum before July. But President Trump’s deployment of federal agents to guard a downtown federal courthouse in early July reinvigorated the demonstrations that often end in violent clashes.

U.S. Marshals, Border Patrol officers and other federal agents regularly fire tear gas, rubber bullets and other projectiles at crowds that gather in front of the courthouse. In the late hours of the night, demonstrators often rattle a series of temporary gates surrounding the building. They have on several occasions broken through.

“Consideration should be given to the chaos of a protesting environment, especially after tear gas or other less-lethal munitions have been deployed against protesters en masse,” Schmidt said.

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