By Shellsea Lomeli
PORTLAND, OR – The Multnomah County DA established a new policy in response to the peaceful protests and mass demonstrations that have flooded Portland since the police murder of George Floyd, announcing that protestors will not be prosecuted.
Protests and demonstrations in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have developed across the nation and the globe since George Floyd’s tragic death on May 25. Portland, Oregon, is one of the cities that has been most impacted by these protests. In Portland, protestors have been lining the streets in large groups to protest social justice issues like police violence and systematic racism.
Over the past two months, hundreds of demonstrators have been arrested on allegations ranging from interfering with police officers to more severe offenses like arson. Controversial debate has consumed the city, as well as people all around the country, on the justice behind how the Portland police are handling the situation. President Donald Trump continues to suggest that the city bring in the National Guard to settle the demonstrations.
On August 11, 2020, District Attorney Mike Schmidt of Multnomah County announced that his office will not be prosecuting cases where the crime(s) did not involve deliberate property damage, theft, or the use or threat of force against another person.
According to the DA’s office, the new policy aims to promote community safety in the county as well as reduce the negative and lasting impacts an experience in the criminal justice system can have on an individual when they are arrested because of a peaceful protest.
“As prosecutors, we acknowledge the depth of emotion that motivates these demonstrations and support those who are civically engaged through peacefully protesting,” stated DA Schmidt.
“If we leverage the full force of the criminal justice system on individuals who are peacefully protesting and demanding to be heard, we will cause irreparable harm to the mandate to our society.”
The crimes the Multnomah County DA’s Office will presumptively decline to prosecute include the following:
- Interfering with a peace officer or parole and probation officer
- Disorderly conduct in the second degree
- Criminal trespassing in the first and second degree
- Escaping in the third degree
- Riot (Unless accompanied by a charge outside of this list.)
This new policy also aims to extinguish the incarceration of those charged with a misdemeanor or felony crime that only caused financial harm during a protest. The offenses listed under this category include:
- Criminal mischief in the second and third-degree when the value is under $1,000
- Theft in the first, second, and third-degree when the value is under $1000 or when the theft is committed during a riot.
Instead of a jail or prison sentence, the DA’s office will offer offenders conditional dismissal after restitution is paid or amends to the community are made in another way such as restorative justice with the impacted victim.
“What we are doing is recognizing that the right to speak and have your voice heard is extremely important,” said DA Schmidt at a press conference following his announcement.
“We will undermine public safety, not promote it, if we do not take action to bring about immediate change,” DA Schmidt stated.
Following DA Schmidt’s announcement, the Portland Police Department issued a statement of their own, restating their goal of maintaining peace and promoting public safety.
“We prefer not to make arrests at all, stated the Portland Police Chief. “The arrests we make often come after hours of damage to private property, disruption of public transit and traffic on public streets, thefts from small businesses, arson, burglary, attacks on members of the community, and attacks against police officers.
“DA Schmidt’s policy does not change the law,” the Portland PD clarified. “The Portland Police Bureau will continue to do the job the community expects of us…and we will continue to work with the District Attorney’s Office in the interest of public safety.”
The new policy on prosecuting protestors has been met with a mix of support and scrutiny.
“Portland now belongs to the anarchists,” stated Ian Cheong, Managing Editor of a conservative American political news outlet.
Others have expressed their support for the policy, calling it “reformative justice in action.”
Based on the Multnomah County District Attorney’s new policy, it is inferred that hundreds of criminal cases against Portland protesters will be dropped.
The county will continue to look at Portland, Oregon, as the city enters its 75th night of social justice protests, waiting to see the impact DA Mike Schmidt’s policy will have on the actions, demonstrators and police officers.
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