Newly minted Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt announced during a Tuesday morning press conference that his office would drop charges against many protesters accused of low-level crimes since May 29, 2020.
"This policy acknowledges that the factors that lead to the commission of criminal activity during a protest are incredibly complex. The protesters are angry, yes," Schmidt said. "This frustration can escalate to levels that violate the law. Some of those violations are impermissible by any standard, resulting in physical violence, injury and worse. Others represent the instinctive reactions of people who have been gassed repeatedly, who have been struck with kinetic projectile weapons."
Under the new policy, the district attorney's office will "presumptively decline" to prosecute cases in which the most serious violation is a city ordinance, or where the crime did not involve deliberate property damage, theft or threat or use of force against another person.
Schmidt ran for office on a platform of criminal justice reform, and today's announcement delivers on that promise: Most of the people who have taken to Portland's streets to protest racist policing will not face criminal charges.
What that means, in real numbers: Of the 550 protest cases that have been referred to the district attorney's office between May 29 and Aug. 10, 417 were misdemeanors, and 133 were felonies. The most common misdemeanor charge was interfering with a peace officer (313 cases), and the most common felony charge was riot (44 cases).
After reviewing the 550 cases, the DA's office now plans to prosecute 47, all of which are felony cases. An additional 86 felony cases are still pending.
"The district attorney's office will presumptively decline to pursue criminal charges which result solely from the participation in a protest or mass demonstration," Schmidt said.
Crimes that will not be prosecuted include: interfering with a peace officer, disorderly conduct in the second degree, criminal trespass in the first or second degree, escape in the third degree, and harassment and riot when it isn't accompanied by a charge separate from this list.