There are a lot of moving parts to this one so let’s quickly recap. There have been 95 straight nights of protests in Portland since the death of George Floyd and on 25 occasions those have been declared riots. Mayor Ted Wheeler has been more vocal lately about denouncing the violence and in response the mob has targeted him at his home with occupations, vandalism, arson and rioting. Mayor Wheeler has now told his neighbors that for their safety he plans to move.
Meanwhile, after a pro-Trump individual was murdered in the city Saturday allegedly by an Antifa supporter, the state’s governor announced a plan to curb the violence by asking police from nearby suburbs of Portland to help the city by sending more officers. The sheriff’s in those suburbs said no, citing the general lack of support for police and, in particular, the county’s new DA Mike Schmidt who has said his office will drop charges against protesters unless they involve assault or arson. In practice this means that anyone arrested for a lesser charge like resisting arrest is immediately released.
And that brings us to this story discussed on KGW8 last night. Ever since the federal police left Portland, state police have stepped in to help out. But it turns out the feds deputized some of those state troopers which means they have the ability to arrest people on federal charges and to potentially bypass the county DA:
The move actually happened earlier this summer, when state troopers were brought in to help facilitate the departure of federal officers from downtown Portland, according to Gov. Kate Brown’s deputy communications director. But the cross-deputization of OSP troopers could allow state police to bypass the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office entirely when it comes to charges against arrested protesters.
KGW reporter Pat Dooris suggested this change could be significant for the rioters in Portland:
This is basically the ground changing under the feet of the protesters. because when the state police come in and are cross-deputized by the [U.S. Marshals], they’re able to make arrests under the federal law. And I’m told there is something similar to interfering with a police officer under the federal law. [Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt] will not prosecute someone for that charge, but the U.S. Attorney’s Office has been much more aggressive at holding people accountable and prosecuting for all kinds of charges. So, I think you’re going to see a lot more of that start to happen as soon as these officers arrive.
KOIN 6 has a reaction from the Oregon State Police saying this is not intended as a criticism of DA Mike Schmidt. Buy, well, they are trying to get things done and he’s basically in the way:
“OSP is not criticizing any officials and we respect the authority of the [Multnomah County] District Attorney, but to meet the Governor’s charge of bringing violence to an end we will use all lawful methods at our disposal,” an Oregon State Police spokesperson said.
As of last week, 74 people were facing federal charges in connection with Portland protests/riots.
The charges against the arrested protesters include arson, failing to obey lawful orders and damaging federal property. Those convicted of assaulting a federal officer face up to 20 years in prison. The same applies to those convicted of arson, with a mandatory minimum sentence of five years.
Obviously that hasn’t been enough to discourage the rioters yet since we’ve had multiple riots and one murder in the last week. Still, this raises the penalty for those creating nightly chaos and that’s a good thing.
Update: Another local news report from KOIN 6 on this.
Andy Ngo reports this is the first person charged under the system (2nd tweet below):
Breaking: Michelle Peterson O’Connor, a Portland hotel sales manager, 31, has been charged w/civil disorder after assaulting a cross-deputized officer during a violent #antifa riot on 24 Aug. in Portland. This is the first confirmed federal charge involving a state trooper. pic.twitter.com/KeNQEAKz57
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) September 2, 2020