Oregon State Police pull out of Portland after district attorney announces he won’t charge rioters

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PORTLAND, OR – After two weeks, Oregon State Police are pulling out of Portland where they were assigned to protect the federal courthouse, which has been targeted by violent protesters for months.

On Thursday, Oregon State Police Capt. Timothy R. Fox released a statement:

“The Oregon State Police is continually reassessing our resources and the needs of our partner agencies and at this time we are inclined to move those resources back to counties where prosecution of criminal conduct is still a priority.

“Last night was our last night in Portland.”

Police have been frustrated with the newly elected Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt, who is not prosecuting most protesters arrested for misdemeanors.

According to KIRO7, over 500 people have been arrested, but fewer than 50 are being prosecuted.

In an Aug. 11 statement, Schmidt announced the new policy regarding protest-related cases:

“Members of our community have taken to the streets every night since the murder of George Floyd to express their collective grief, anger, and frustration over not just that senseless act of violence, but the countless other abuses People of Color have endured in our country throughout history.

“The demands for change go beyond calling for an end to police violence and encompass the need for all of us to acknowledge and address centuries of racism and oppression that are manifested in mass incarceration, economic inequality, educational disadvantages, and disparities in health care that have allowed COVID-19 to ravage our communities of color.

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“As prosecutors, we acknowledge the depth of emotion that motivates these demonstrations and support those who are civically engaged through peaceful protesting.

“We recognize that we will undermine public safety, not promote it, if we leverage the force of our criminal justice system against peaceful protestors who are demanding to be heard.

“The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office will always strive to advance the safety of our community and its members. We recognize the need to broaden our vision of what a safe community means and our role in promoting that vision.

“To advance public safety we must not only prevent crime, but must also promote economic and housing stability, educational opportunities, strong family and community relationships, and the mental and physical health of all those who live in our county.

“Seen through that lens, the prosecution of cases relating solely to protest activities, most of which have a weak nexus to further criminality and which are unlikely to be deterred by prosecution, draws away from crucially needed resources.

“As stewards of public resources, we must devote our efforts to prosecuting crimes that allow us to protect our most vulnerable victims to have the greatest impact on promoting a safer community for everyone in Multnomah County.

“For these reasons, our Office will apply the following presumptions to all referred cases arising from the current protests in our community.

“A prosecutor choosing to decline to prosecute a case is not condoning or endorsing the conduct that led to the arrest and/or citation.

“A decision to not prosecute a case is not a comment on whether or not the arrest was lawful.

“As with all presumptions, where an individual case presents unusual, aggravating circumstances, line prosecutors may obtain supervisor approval to proceed with the case.”

Schmidt said the new policy recognizes the outrage and frustration over a history of racial injustice, which has led to the protests, as well as practical realities of the court system, which is running months behind in processing cases because of COVID-19:

“The presumption on a lot of these cases that are listed out there is that we won’t prosecute, but if there are egregious circumstances or something about the case that stands out, we can always choose to prosecute.”

On May 29, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler declared a state of emergency and announced a citywide 8 p.m. curfew. But as the first night of the curfew approached, more businesses were looted and fires were set. Police deployed tear gas and ended up arresting 51 people for disorderly conduct.

Wheeler and Oregon’s top federal prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Billy Williams, asked Gov. Kate Brown on June 1 to deploy the Oregon National Guard to Portland.

At the time, Wheeler, also a Democrat, said, “We need help, we need more bodies to stop this senseless violence.”

However, Brown refused to send the National Guard despite Williams informing her that there were “organized efforts” intent on creating chaos.

In July, President Trump had dispatched federal agents to guard the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse, but Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstrators reacted by stepping up their violent tactics, such as throwing bricks and frozen water bottles at police, setting fires and aiming commercial grade fireworks directly at the federal courthouse despite people being inside the building.

Portland also saw its deadliest month in 30 years during the month of July, with 15 homicides, according to Fox News.

Some protesters have been peaceful.

Bev Barnum, a mother of two teenagers, said she was motivated to organize the “Wall of Moms” on Facebook out of motherly instinct, not a political agenda:

“As soon as you become a mom, something is triggered in you. It’s primal. It doesn’t matter if it’s your kid or not, you’re going to help them. If you see a kid drowning, you’re going to jump into the water.

“I’m proud of us. We’re not throwing bricks. We’re not throwing water bottles. We’re not being violent.”

However, others had a different spin on Wall of Moms and groups similar to them.

E.D. Mondaine, president of the Portland NAACP branch, wrote in an opinion piece in the Washington Post that as demonstrations have continued daily in Portland since Floyd’s death on May 25, people with their own agendas are co-opting and diverting attention from the BLM movement:

“Unfortunately, ‘spectacle’ is now the best way to describe Portland’s protests,” Mondaine wrote. “Vandalizing government buildings and hurling projectiles at law enforcement draw attention — but how do these actions stop police from killing black people?”

Mondaine further wrote that the Wall of Moms, a group of mostly white women who have turned out in large numbers in Portland to protest, could be hurting the overall goal of the BLM movement:

“This might ease the consciences of white, affluent women who have previously been silent in the face of Black oppression, but it’s fair to ask: Are they really furthering the cause of justice, or is this another example of white co-optation?”

The state police were reportedly brought in at the end of July as an agreement between Brown and Vice President Mike Pence to exchange them with the federal officers in Portland, according to Fox News.

“Getting Trump’s troops off the streets of downtown Portland has substantially calmed things down,” Brown said in a press conference earlier this week.

Portland officials have declared riots several times during the past few months. On Sunday, another riot was declared when protesters broke into a Portland Police Association office and lit a fire.

Schmidt said Tuesday that “consideration should be given to the chaos of a protesting environment” in light of officers using “tear gas or other less-lethal munitions” against the rioters.

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