After Portland police arrested Austin Nuchraksa on suspicion of shattering windows at the Democratic Party of Oregon headquarters on Inauguration Day, the cops noticed something odd: The conference room where Nuchraksa was being detained smelled like gasoline.
Inside the 25-year-old's backpack, a police detective said he found four Molotov cocktails. "They were leaking gasoline all over the inside of the backpack," wrote a Multnomah County deputy district attorney in a probable cause affidavit. Four green beer bottles were wrapped in socks, each with a cloth wick tucked into the bottle's mouth.
A day after police arrested 14 people at Portland demonstrations, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt announced he would pursue charges for rioting and criminal mischief against four of them. Three of the people charged, including Nuchraksa, of McMinnville, are accused of vandalizing the Democratic Party offices.
The arrests and charges came at a brisker pace than has been typical after Portland vandalism. That the black-clad demonstrators smashed windows in broad daylight may have had something to do with that. (A police officer testified that he saw Nuchraksa smash DPO windows with a silver baton.)
But the speed with which Schmidt pursued charges also suggests that Portland's patience for repeated property destruction by leftist demonstrators is wearing thin.
The "J20" demonstrations, intended as a leftist statement against government authority, were modestly attended, leaderless and often lost on the street. "This is the worst fucking march I've ever attended," one protester reported, according to a minute-by-minute account from The Oregonian.
But they attracted intense attention—as did a march to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement—because they signaled that anti-fascists and other left-wing protesters in Portland were not satisfied by Joe Biden replacing Donald Trump as president. "We are ungovernable," read one banner.
Seattle, another center of militant leftist organizing, was the other U.S. city to see property damage on Inauguration Day. Since summer, activists clad head-to-toe in black have used property damage to express their displeasure with the pace of social change, and to punish elected officials and businesses they believe stand in the way of defunding the police.
Mayor Ted Wheeler has called for the Oregon Legislature to give police new tools to track vandals during protests.
But affidavits show police were able to identify people breaking windows Jan. 20 with relative ease. One officer watched "open-source media"—presumably a livestream—of the J20 protest, and watched a person wearing a gas mask try to shatter a window of the DPO office.
"Unable to do so, the subject handed off the baton to another demonstrator who broke the window and handed the baton back to the subject," the probable cause affidavit says. "The subject then used the baton to break out the rest of the window."
The officer took screenshots on his computer and sent descriptions to police on the scene. Minutes later, police arrested Nicole Rose, 25, of Portland.