Earlier this week, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt announced that he would not prosecute some of the charges against violent antifa rioters in Portland, including the charge of “riot.” Sheriff Mike Reese warned that this move may make the violent “Antifa/anarchists … feel even more emboldened.” That seems extremely likely, especially since Oregon State Police (OSP) decided to withdraw from the area. In announcing the withdrawal on Thursday, OSP spokesman Capt. Timothy Fox noted, “We’re in a county that’s not going to prosecute this criminal behavior.”
What criminal behavior will get a pass in Portland? Quite a bit of it. As PJ Media’s Victoria Taft reported, Schmidt said his default position is not to prosecute the crimes of interfering with a police officer, disorderly conduct, criminal trespass, harassment, escape in the 3rd degree, and riot (in some circumstances).
Schmidt said he would not prosecute the crime of riot unless it is accompanied by another felony charge such as assault, arson, or the intentional destruction of property. He announced he would “presumptively” drop charges if a crime did not involve deliberate property damage, theft, or threat of use of force against another person. Yet he will permit violence against a police officer in cases where officers use force themselves.
“I will also be directing my deputies to take a particularly hard look at cases involving resisting arrest and assault of a public safety officer, if those cases occurred while an individual was being tear-gassed or otherwise exposed to a use of force at the time of the resistance,” Schmidt said at a press conference.
Rather than enforcing the law against violent antifa rioters who have terrorized the streets of Portland for 75 nights, Schmidt effectively took their side against those eeevil police officers. How dare officers try to restore order, prevent buildings from burning down, and respond to lasers, Molotov cocktails, and commercial-grade mortar fireworks with one ounce of force?!
Schmidt even excused some of the rioters’ violent actions, claiming they represent “the instinctive reaction of people who have been gassed repeatedly, who have been struck with kinetic projectile weapons, and who have seen other protestors arrested in ways they deeply disapprove of.” Never mind the violent attacks on police, federal law enforcement officers, and state troopers. No, these rioters who repeatedly lob explosives and shine lasers into officers’ eyes are victims, according to the D.A.
Multnomah DA Mike Schmidt says some of the actions of protestors represent “the instinctive reaction of people who have been gassed repeatedly, who have been struck with kinetic projectile weapons, and who have seen other protestors arrested in ways they deeply disapprove of” pic.twitter.com/L7B4ue5ucH
— Sergio Olmos (@MrOlmos) August 11, 2020
Officers who actually have to face the violent antifa rioters did not take kindly to Schmidt’s decision to side with their enemies.
Sheriff Mike Reese, who celebrated when one of his deputies lent a hand to fix the PA system for a Black Lives Matter rally in front of the Justice Center, raised serious concerns with Schmidt in an email leaked to The Oregonian.
“Mike, I have a concern and a question,” Reese wrote on Monday. “I didn’t realize riot was one of the charges you were presumptively dismissing. …I have witnessed situations where it’s been used and the criminal behavior has been significant.”
“The situation is incredibly volatile with a really committed group of Antifa/anarchists starting fires, damaging property and assaulting police/community members,” Reese added. “They may feel even more emboldened if there is a public statement that appears to minimize their activities.” Schmidt responded by asking Reese to call him.
Reese’s email did not represent the full fall-out from Schmidt’s decision, however.
Oregon State Police had sent approximately 100 troopers to protect the federal courthouse in an agreement that allowed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to make the presence of federal law enforcement less visible. DHS had scaled up in order to protect federal property after state and local officials prevented federal cooperation with Portland Police and OSP. Gov. Kate Brown (D-Ore.) and Mayor Ted Wheeler (D-Portland) had decided to blame President Donald Trump for somehow instigating the violence (even though it had been going on for a month before DHS bolstered its presence), rather than engaging with violent rioters.
Although antifa rioters had begun to target the police union and a police precinct in a residential neighborhood in recent days, on Wednesday night they returned to the federal courthouse and the justice center, launching commercial-grade fireworks at the federal courthouse and setting a fire outside the building. As the police reported, rioters wore helmets and gas masks while carrying shields and batons. They also shined green lasers at officers’ eyes. Rioters later launched explosives and commercial-grade fireworks directly at police officers, in addition to pelting them with rocks.
Yet, since police officers responded to these violent and potentially deadly attacks with tear gas, it remains unclear whether Schmidt would prosecute the antifa agitators involved in the attacks.
On Thursday, OSP announced the officers would withdraw, since the two-week deployment had come to an end. Although state troopers had only planned to be there for two weeks, officials could easily have extended the window, especially considering the fact that the violence has not abated. In announcing the withdrawal, OSP spokesman Fox said, “We’re in a county that’s not going to prosecute this criminal behavior.”
“The Oregon State Police is continually reassessing our resources and the needs of our partner agencies and at this time we are inclined to move those resources back to counties where prosecution of criminal conduct is still a priority,” he added.
In other words, Reese’s warning is likely correct: the D.A.’s decision not to prosecute riot and other crimes has indeed minimized the crimes of violent rioters, emboldening them to keep up the violence. OSP doesn’t want anything to do with it — especially when the D.A. who would refuse to prosecute a wide range of the criminals state troopers arrest.
What’s the point in trying to maintain order and clamp down on violent riots when the official tasked with applying the law refuses to do so? Policing is often a thankless job, and when a D.A. not only sides with violent rioters against the police but also refuses to do his job in prosecuting them, it must demoralize the men and women who lay their lives on the line in defense of public safety.
As of Friday morning, it remains unclear whether the large protests on Thursday night devolved into violence. Police reported that the protests blocked traffic and one protester objected to reporter Nancy Rommelmann filming, so she knocked Rommelmann’s phone out of her hand. Even if the protests did not devolve into riots on Thursday night, it seems important to note another detail Rommelmann reported: the police had to air out a station on Thursday because rioters had thrown feces, buckets of diarrhea, into the station.
— Nancy Rommelmann (@NancyRomm) August 14, 2020
Schmidt is refusing to enforce the law in order to protect these very rioters: agitators who try to burn down buildings with people inside (in one case they barricaded the doors of a police station while setting it on fire), try to blow up officers using explosives and commercial-grade fireworks, try to blind officers with lasers, and dump buckets of diarrhea into police stations.
Thanks to Schmidt’s refusal to enforce the law, these rioters are likely to feel “more emboldened.” No wonder Oregon State Police are getting the hell out of dodge.
Perhaps now, Ted Wheeler will go begging to President Donald Trump to send in more federal officers and restore order. He is already facing a challenger who self-identifies as antifa and can’t bring herself to condemn the attempted murder of police officers, even after Wheeler finally admitted that the rioters are indeed attempting to commit murder.
Does Ted Wheeler really want his city to burn?
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.