Portland Police Won’t Charge Fighting Protesters With Assault Unless Victims Come Forward

The Portland Police Bureau says it needs to be able to prove injuries occurred in order to pursue assault charges—and it needs victims to come forward to do that.

Man pepper sprayed at Tom McCall Waterfront Park on Aug. 6, 2017. (Daniel Stindt)

Last night, Portland police cited three protesters with disorderly conduct after a brawl broke out between far-right protesters and antifascist counter-protesters on the downtown waterfront.

The fights left people bloodied, bruised and pepper sprayed. It also left observers wondering why the Portland Police Bureau was choosing to pursue disorderly conduct citations—a relatively low-level misdemeanor—instead of assault charges.

Portland police tell WW it's because they need victims to come forward and talk about the severity of their injuries before they can pursue assault charges.

Man pepper sprayed at Tom McCall Waterfront Park on Aug. 6, 2017. (Daniel Stindt)

"[We need] a person that wishes to be a victim of a crime and who is willing to contact us and say they were present and assaulted," said Portland Police Bureau spokesman Chris Burley. "We need witnesses and victims."

Without a victim, prosecuting an assault charge can be difficult, Burley said.

Related: Huge alt-right brawler called "Tiny" faces criminal charge after ruckus on Portland waterfront.

Although the police have videos of the fights, Burley said they can't easily identify some of the potential assault victims. Some have their faces obscured by bandannas. Others have their backs to the camera. And officers simply don't recognize every person who went to the protest.

"As we all watch video, it's definitely an indicator on what has occurred but we cannot rely solely on the video," Burley said. "We don't know the identity of everybody who was there."

Proud Boys at Tom McCall Waterfront Park on Aug. 6, 2017. (Daniel Stindt)

Burley added that if anyone feels they were a victim of a crime at Sunday's protests, they should call the Portland Police Bureau's non-emergency number.

Although no further arrests have been made, Burley said it's still possible police might pursue more charges as they continue to review video from the protest and take reports from people who say they were victims of Sunday's violence.

Melee at Tom McCall Waterfront Park on Aug. 6, 2017. (Daniel Stindt)

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.