U.S. Attorney’s Office Levies Federal Charges Against 74 Portland Protesters

Today’s announcement comes two weeks after Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt said his office would decline to prosecute many low-level protest offenses.

Protesters erect fences and shine lights into an opening at the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse in July. (Alex Wittwer)

The United States Attorney's Office for the District of Oregon announced Thursday that it had levied federal charges against 74 Portland protesters for crimes they allegedly committed between July 1 and Aug. 24.

In a press release, the U.S. Attorney's Office listed the names of 63 people facing federal charges. Of those, many have been charged with failing to obey a lawful order or assaulting a federal officer. Four were charged with arson or attempted arson. The remaining 11 who were not named were issued citations.

Of the 74 people charged today, 68 were arrested between July 20 and July 31—at the height of the protesters' conflicts with federal police deployed to Portland by President Donald Trump. The charges handed down today are the legal fallout of those clashes.

The charges show the feds intend to aggressively pursue cases in which protesters came into contact with federal police—even if that contact was limited to shining lasers in the agents' eyes.

Today's announcement comes two weeks after Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt said many charges against protesters would be dropped. Schmidt'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.

"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 Aug. 11. "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."

U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy Williams' rhetoric is decidedly more tough on crime than Schmidt's.

"The U.S. Attorney's Office and our federal law enforcement partners are expeditiously working with local and state law enforcement to identify, arrest and prosecute these individuals that are disrupting the rule of law in our communities and physically attacking our law enforcement officers and destroying property,"  Williams said in a press release Thursday. "Violent agitators not only delay real reform, but make our community less safe by keeping law enforcement from responding to other critical calls for service."

Federal authorities say they have arrested 100 people related to Portland's nightly protests. That means nearly three-fourths of them are facing federal charges. The vast majority of the 74 being charged are local residents.

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