FBI denounces violence, praises free speech during unrest
The Federal Bureau of Investigation weighed in on its approach to addressing unrest in Portland on Wednesday, Aug. 26, at a press conference downtown.
"We don't initiate investigations based on First Amendment activity like assembly or speech," said Special Agent Charge Renn Cannon Wednesday afternoon. "And, we don't try to police ideology."
Cannon said the agency's approach to policing is "balancing its mission to protect First Amendment rights under the Constitution" while also conducting investigations as protests continue.
On Aug. 20, the FBI announced an investigation into riot fires from the very first night of protests in the Rose City on May 29. The riot lasted about five hours and police said included arson, riot and looting. Two police officers were slightly injured, one by a thrown incendiary device and the other was hit in the head with a rock.
Now, three months later, the protests are still going and, although the violence waxes and wanes, they show no sign of stopping.
A riot was declared outside City Hall in downtown Portland after windows were broken and fires were set on Tuesday, Aug. 25, during the 89th consecutive night of protests against police, systemic racism and other causes. Twenty-three adults were arrested and two juveniles were detained.
A riot was declared by 11:10 p.m. when one man was seen trying to light City Hall on fire by igniting an aerosol can and spraying it toward the building. Security guards were reportedly still inside as this was happening.
After issuing additional warnings, officers attempted to disperse the crowd once again and made several more arrests. As they did, rebar ties were placed in the road as an attempt to pop police car tires and a bus shelter was shattered. Several lasers were shone in officers' eyes.
Police said they tried to disengage for a second time but the crowd quickly returned and more arrests were made. By 1:30 a.m., most of the crowd had left the area.
Many people have faced federal charges stemming from actions at these nightly protests — much of which occurred while federal officers were in Portland. The federal presence led to friction between local and federal authorities as well as reignited what had been dwindling demonstrations.
In contrast, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt recently announced his office would not prosecute certain low-level crimes resulting from the ongoing nightly protests.
The cases the office said it would not prosecute are ones where the most serious offense is a city ordinance violation or where the crime(s) do not involve deliberate property damage, theft or the use or threat of force against another person. Such crimes include:
• Interfering with a peace officer or parole and probation officer (ORS 162.247)
• Disorderly conduct in the second degree (ORS 166.025)
• Criminal trespass in the first and second degree (ORS 164.245 & ORS 164.255)
• Escape in the third degree (ORS 162.145)
Harassment (ORS 166.065)
• Riot (166.015) - Unless accompanied by a charge outside of this list.
"I want to make it very clear though," Schmidt said at a press conference. "This is not a free pass."
KOIN News 6 is a news partner of the Portland Tribune. Their story can be found here.
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