Federal charges may mark new phase of Portland protests
The filing of federal charges may mark a new phase in the protests that have occurred in downtown Portland over the last 40 days amidst a national convulsion over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
On Monday, July 6, federal prosecutors charged seven people with federal crimes that include disorderly conduct, assaulting a federal officer and destruction of federal property following protests in downtown Portland over the previous week.
The alleged crimes took place between July 2 and July 6 as protests downtown turned into confrontations with police near the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse in Portland.
The charges follow the deployment of federal police in camouflage in recent days around the courthouse. Hundreds of arrests linked to the protests have been made by Portland police and other local jurisdictions, with charges filed in state court. However, the federal involvement by police and prosecutors could now mean different outcomes if the charges result in conviction. In general, federal criminal convictions tend to bring stiffer sentences than state convictions do.
The role of the federal police remains unclear, as Oregon Public Broadcasting reported Monday. However, the proximity of the Multnomah County Justice Center — the frequent focus of the downtown protests — to federal properties could mean a greater federal role. As a federal spokesman told OPB, "There have been non-Portland assets deployed ... The primary focus has been to protect federal property and personnel."
The seven people charged are:
• Rowan Olsen, 19, of Portland, accused of disorderly conduct, creating a hazard on federal property, and failing to obey a lawful order;
• Shant Singh Ahuja, 28, of Oceanside, California, accused of destruction of federal property;
• Andrew Steven Faulkner, 24, of Beaverton; Gretchen Margaret Blank, 29, of Seattle, Washington; Christopher Fellini, 31, of Portland; Cody Porter, 28, of Portland; and Taimane Jame Teo, 24, of Eugene, Oregon, accused of assaulting federal officers.
On Tuesday Oregon's top federal prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Billy Williams issued a press release saying the federal courthouse "has been a repeated target of vandalism, sustaining extensive damage."
"U.S. Marshals Service deputies and officers from the Federal Protective Service, Homeland Security Investigations, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection working to protect the courthouse have been subjected to threats; aerial fireworks including mortars; high intensity lasers targeting officers' eyes; thrown rocks, bottles, and balloons filled with paint from demonstrators while performing their duties."
According to the release, the seven appeared in federal court on Monday, only to be released as the charges proceed to trial.
According to the release, the cases are being investigated by several federal agencies: The U.S. Marshals Service; FBI; U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; Federal Protective Service; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; and Homeland Security Investigations.
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