After 70 days, Portland protest arrests near 600
Portland's protest movement remains unbroken.
Their impact, however quantified, has been unprecedented — with budgets slashed and officials toppled. But a look at law enforcement records shows the price of protesting.
The Portland Police Bureau alone has made at least 481 arrests since the mass gatherings started in earnest on May 29, according to an index compiled by the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office.
The feds have detained or arrested 98 people near the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse — with 25 facing felony charges, 44 charged with misdemeanors, 23 cases recorded as "declinations," five persons cited and one case pending review.
"The U.S. Attorney's Office works closely with law enforcement to review the facts surrounding an arrest," said Kevin Sonoff, spokesman for the federal attorney's office of Oregon. "Based upon that discussion and an assessment of potential federal charges, prosecutors accept or decline cases using their best professional judgment as to whether a case should proceed to court."
Local authorities have also arrested or detained 18 juveniles. The Tribune's review shows that, in total, a minimum of 597 people have been arrested or taken into custody since the unrest began.
With nearly two months of consecutive demonstrations under their belt, the loosely organized crowds galvanized by the rallying cry of Black Lives Matter have made history — and show no sign of slowing down.
"These guys are absolutely unpredictable," Portland activist Jessie Sponberg said of the local police, who arrested him on June 12 and held him inside the Justice Center. "The whole city is trying to get inside the castle, but they just walked me in."
The incoming Multnomah County District Attorney, Mike Schmidt, set to take charge on Saturday, Aug. 1, has vowed to take a "hard look" at all arrests — especially those for non-violent offenses like breaking curfew or not complying with dispersal orders — as part of his slate of proposed reforms.
That said, here is a look at what county prosecution efforts have looked like so far, as of the time this article was written. Some statistics likely have changed since then:
• 72 cases have charging documents on file, or prosecutors have signaled their intent to do so by arraignment.
• 54 cases have a status of no complaint — often interpreted as dropping charges — though the index obtained by the Tribune says those files will be re-reviewed for "investigative follow up" at a later date.
• Four cases have their status listed as prosecution declined, with district attorneys citing a lack of evidence, pending review, or in the case of one live-streamer, a "legal impediment."
• Three cases have been completely redacted, citing exemptions to public records law.
• One case was dismissed after a grand jury convened and found insufficient evidence to charge a young woman with arson.
• There are no listed convictions on the index.
The remaining local cases largely have seen adjudication delayed due to COVID-19 procedures. And some of the 500-plus total arrests involve people arrested on multiple occasions.
"I was absolutely wrongfully arrested," said Jeva, who operates the snack van that has become a trademark of the nightly demonstrations. "Literally the first person who arrested me said they were only following orders."
Others involve the city's ragtag band of freelance journalists, many of who now reach tens of thousands of interested followers on social media.
Justin Yau, who runs the Portland Independent Documentarians channel, faces charges of rioting and interfering with police for simply filming them, he says, on the night of June 30.
"My activities that night were purely journalistic in nature and intent. I did not partake in any violence or rioting," he told the Tribune. "I do not consider myself a member of the crowd or a protester. I am a neutral observer."
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