White people make up the majority of arson and property damage charges police referred to the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office amid Portland's nightly racial justice protests, according to newly released data for nearly 1,000 adult Portland protesters arrested between May 29 and Oct. 5, 2020.
So far, the DA's office has rejected 666 out of 974—or 68%—of cases that law enforcement referred.
Most of the rejected cases (543 of them) were dismissed in the "interest of justice," which means the deputy district attorney reviewing a case chose not to proceed "based on compelling factors or circumstances," such as the nature of the crime, the defendant's prior record, current office policy, and "the impact on the public interest of dismissal."
The district attorney's office will pursue charges in 128 cases. (Another 182 cases are still pending.)
Those charging decisions appear to reflect the priorities of new Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt, who has pledged not to pursue most cases against protesters who weren't engaged in violence or property destruction.
The DA's office released the figures today in an interactive database.
Arson and property damage
The data shows that white people account for nine out of 10 arson charges and 94 out of 125 property damage charges (or 75%) in cases police referred to the DA.
The DA's office plans to pursue charges in eight arson cases. But the racial background of the defendants doesn't appear to match that of the people referred for prosecution by police. Out of those eight cases being prosecuted, five defendants are white, two are Black and one is Hispanic.
Multnomah County district attorney spokesman Brent Weisberg says the discrepancy in race between referred arson cases and issued indictments is because "we're reporting on cases at different phases of the process, and a number of things can happen between each phase that changes the outcome." It remains unclear whether the DA is indicting different people than those initially charged, or the same people—but learned more about their racial background.
Either way, the ethnicity of people being charged with property crimes remains mostly white.
The DA's office will pursue prosecution in at least 47 of the 125 property damage cases referred by law enforcement. Of those cases, 79% of defendants are white, 14% are Black, 4% are Hispanic, and 3% are Asian Pacific Islander.
Public order crimes make up the vast majority of cases law enforcement referred to the DA. Public order crimes include disorderly conduct, curfew violations, resisting arrest, riot and interfering with a peace officer. Police referred 902 such cases, and prosecutors will pursue at least 83 of those cases.
The second-most common category was person crimes: 166 such cases were referred to the DA's office. Person crimes can include assault, recklessly endangering another person, menacing, harassment and unlawful use of a weapon. The DA will pursue at least 53 of those cases.
While most of the people facing charges are white, Black defendants are still overrepresented in prosecutions compared to the people police referred to the DA's office.
White people represent 77% of all 974 cases law enforcement referred to the district attorney's office. So far, they make up 67% (87) of the 128 cases that prosecutors will pursue.
Black people make up 10% (94) of the 974 total cases referred to the district attorney's office by law enforcement, and 14% (21) of the 128 cases that prosecutors plan to pursue.
Hispanic people represent 6% of all 974 cases referred to the district attorney's office and 11% (10) of the 128 cases that prosecutors plan to pursue.
Asian Pacific Islanders represent 2% of all 974 cases referred to the district attorney's office. So far, they make up 4% (5) of the 128 cases that prosecutors will pursue.
Out of the 974 total cases, 656 are men, 315 are women, and three are people whose genders are not identified. Of the cases prosecutors will pursue, 99 protesters are men and 29 are women.
Most of the defendants are young. That reflects the demographics observed at most Portland protests, especially those occurring after dark, when protesters and police regularly clash. Thirty-eight percent of protest cases referred to the DA's office are people ages 18 to 25, 45% are 26 to 35, 13% are 36 to 45, 5% are 46 to 55, and fewer than 1% are over the age of 55.
Out of the 128 cases prosecutors will pursue, 40% of protesters are 18 to 25, 45% are 26 to 35, 9% are 36 to 45, and 5% are 46 to 55.