Portland district attorney will stop prosecuting non-violent misdemeanors tied to protests

Graig Graziosi
·2-min read
Getty Images
Getty Images

The newly elected district attorney of Portland, Oregon announced Tuesday that his office will not prosecute individuals who were arrested on non-violent misdemeanour charges during protests.

The amnesty for those arrests will retroactively cover arrests for all non-violent misdemeanour charges relating to protests since late May.

Portland's policy change may provide some much needed relief for the city's court system, which is currently two months behind schedule in processing cases due to the coronavirus.

Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt told the Associated Press the new policy was meant to address and account for prejudice shown to minority communities.

"The protesters are angry ... and deeply frustrated with what they perceive to be structural inequalities in our basic social fabric. And this frustration can escalate to levels that violate the law," Mr Schmidt said. "This policy acknowledges that centuries of disparate treatment of our black and brown communities have left deep wounds and that the healing process will not be easy or quick."

The new policy will allow for hundreds of protesters who have been arrested since late May to dodge criminal prosecution.

The city's police chief, Chuck Lovell, said the new policy would still allow for individuals who committed acts of violence or property damage to be held accountable for crimes.

"Committing a crime is different from demonstrating," he said. "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."

Protests for racial justice and against police brutality in Portland began in the wake of the George Floyd protests, and have been ongoing for 76 nights.

The city gained national attention when Donald Trump sent federal agents to beat back protesters under the auspices of protecting a federal court house.

After weeks of clashes between law enforcement and the protesters, Mr Trump announced federal agents would be moved from the courthouse to other areas of Portland, away from the main body of protesters.

Since then, there have been some skirmishes between protesters and police in the city, but the nightly protests appear to have calmed.

OregonLive reported that police reported no arrests and no confrontations with protesters on Tuesday night, suggesting that the protests may be settling into less volatile demonstrations now that the federal agents are gone and that misdemeanour offences will not be held against them.

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