Police officers have arrested more than 500 people during protests and riots in Oregon’s largest city since May, its police department said.
Crowds set fires during 41 of the gatherings, which typically start around 9 p.m. and go into the early hours of the next morning, and hurled projectiles at officers on 58 nights. Acts of vandalism were committed during 49 gatherings.
Demonstrators, who on many nights commit violent, criminal acts, have mainly targeted eight locations, police said, including the police union building in north Portland, the police bureau’s East Precinct, and the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse downtown.
The level of activity met the police definition of a riot on 17 nights, the Portland Police Bureau said. The definition is when six or more people “engage in tumultuous and violent conduct and thereby intentionally or recklessly creating a grave risk of causing public alarm, excluding persons who are engaged in passive resistance.”
Police officials have said they prefer to make no arrests and not engage with crowds, emphasizing their respect for peaceful protests.
“When criminal behavior occurs, especially behavior threatening the safety of those near the event or those targeted by the event, law enforcement must respond,” the bureau said in a statement.
Police officers virtually disappeared from downtown for most of July, during repeated clashes between federal officers and rioters.
Other arrests were made by federal officers during that period of time.
At least 99 arrests were made through early August. At least 80 were charged, including a man charged this week for allegedly using a baseball bat to hit a federal officer during a riot last month.
Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf told members of Congress in Washington on Aug. 6 that for more than two months, “violent criminals, opportunists, and anarchists have attacked the federal seat of justice in Portland,” referring to the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse.
Over 250 officers suffered injuries after being assaulted with weapons like sledgehammers, commercial-grade fireworks, and lasers, Wolf said.
Of the approximately 550 referrals made by Portland police relating to protests and riots, 150 were for felonies, Nathan Vasquez, a deputy district attorney for Multnomah County who heads its Strategic Prosecution and Services Unit, told reporters in early August.
Prosecutors have filed charges in 50 of the cases. They’re still working on acquiring more evidence in others, such as interviews or video footage. The district attorney’s office has dismissed some felony charges. Vasquez said he couldn’t say how many have been dismissed.
A request for updated figures wasn’t returned on Friday.
Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt recently announced a new policy that has prosecutors presumptively decline prosecution for a number of charges related to demonstrations, including disorderly conduct and interfering with officers. The policy is retroactive, applying to all cases referred since May 29.
“This new policy is designed to promote public safety, and to ensure that we are using resources in a manner that holds people accountable when they intentionally harm someone else, or destroy property,” Vasquez told reporters. “We do not know exactly how many cases will be impacted by the new policy. It is our expectation, and our intention, that the majority of misdemeanor cases, with some limited exceptions, will be subject to the new policy.”
Some of the most shocking violence has taken place in Portland in recent days.
During a protest on Sunday, a group of people ejected a man from the gathering before assaulting him. Within the next few hours, several others were beaten, including a man punched and kicked repeatedly until he was knocked unconscious.
Witnesses told The Epoch Times that Black Lives Matter activists were involved and video footage supported that version of events. The victim told a local news outlet that he feels he was targeted because of his race.
Riots took place on Wednesday and Thursday nights. People gathered at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in south Portland, spraying graffiti and tampering with security cameras. Federal and Portland police officers worked together to disperse the crowds.