Portland activist groups have rallied to the defense of a City Hall protester, Philip Stan Schaefer, who was arrested on Sunday and charged with two felonies following a scuffle related to a protest outside the Portland Building last week.
Schaefer was scheduled to be arraigned this morning on charges of coercion and robbery in the second degree. The latter is a Measure 11 crime carrying a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 5 years and 10 months.
"This charge won't stick. Just more protester harassment," The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon's legal director, Mat dos Santos, weighed in on Twitter. Teressa Raiford of Don't Shoot PDX told KOIN and The Oregonian that she felt protesters were being targeted for retaliation by law enforcement, and said Schaefer had merely defended an elderly woman from being assaulted at the March 29 protest.
Cameras were in abundance, and footage of the incident could make or break the case against Schaefer. Raiford appealed for anyone with video of the incident to share it with the organization.
But video already exists. And it shows that Schaefer is facing felony charges for removing a man's eyeglasses during an argument, then handing those glasses to a security guard.
In a Sunday night statement, the Portland Police Bureau said "Schaefer's charges come as a result of an encounter he had with a man outside the Portland Building, much of which is caught on camera by local media and others recording the encounter."
WW correspondent Mike Bivins was at the scene and captured what is perhaps the clearest video of the scuffle yet to be made public.
The clip, a version of which was posted to Twitter on March 29, shows a small crowd gathered outside the Portland Building. A middle-aged white man in a gray blazer, apparently the alleged victim in the police complaint against Schaefer, is seen arguing with a woman in a maroon beanie. The woman is saying, "I'm a 60-year-old woman…asshole." Someone or someones' hands can be seen on the man's chest, and tugging on the lapel of his jacket, but, because of the camera angle, it's hard to say whose.
About nine seconds in to the clip, the man turns to face a man in a black baseball cap who appears to be Schaefer. The man leans in to Schaefer's face and says, "maybe I'll start touching you." A bearded protester jumps in between the two men, apparently to break up the rapidly escalating altercation—but at the same time, a protester whose face is hidden behind a black bandana moves from behind to put the man in a choke hold.
At that point, Schaefer plucks the man's glasses from his face and turns to leave the scene.
At approximately 19 seconds in to the clip, Schaefer hands the man's glasses to a G4S security guard who had been standing by the wall, observing.
The man escapes the headlock and chases after Schaefer to retrieve his eyeglasses. Someone has tugged the man's jacket from the back. The man grabs Schaefer by the collar and throws him hard against the wall.
Several protesters converge and hold the man back while Schaefer writhes free, walks away while massaging his back, and turns to watch from a distance.
Certain details, such as Schaefer handing the man's glasses to the G4S guard, are clearly visible only in the high-resolution version of the video shared with WW, not the grainy version posted to social media.
Portland Police Bureau spokesman Pete Simpson clarified for WW that the robbery charge against Schaefer was on account of his having nabbed the man's eyeglasses.
"I don't know what investigators learned during the interviews. You definitely can't take people's stuff," Simpson says. "It is an unusual set of circumstances for sure."
UPDATE, 3:10 pm: Multnomah County prosecutors have reduced charges against Schaefer, dropping the the coercion count and reducing the robbery 2 charge to robbery 3.
"Predictable," the ACLU's dos Santos wrote on Twitter. He added that the district attorney's "decision to overcharge must stop."