Portland Prosecutors Not Pursuing Charges Against Some People Arrested in Autonomous Zone

December 12, 2020 Updated: December 12, 2020

Prosecutors overseeing Portland are not pursuing charges against most people arrested in the so-called autonomous zone, where armed occupiers are threatening police and others who try to respond.

Of 20 people arrested this week, prosecutors rejected cases against 12 of them and were unable to find records for five others, according to information obtained by The Epoch Times.

Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt’s office is pursuing cases against one man, James Collings, who was arrested on charges including resisting arrest, and two other cases are pending review or re-review.

The occupation started earlier this month, when a group of people erected barriers and created a zone on North Mississippi Avenue. Police said the group stockpiled weapons and posted armed guards. The group is upset that a family was going to be evicted. A similar area was created in Seattle over the summer. Authorities tolerated the zone for months but shut it down following several killings in or near the lawless area.

People were arrested this week for crimes including disorderly conduct, interfering with a peace officer, resisting arrest, and trespassing. Some of the charges were felonies.

Schmidt implemented a radical policy earlier this year, announcing his office wouldn’t pursue cases against some people arrested during protests and riots.

In a statement Friday, the district attorney said the situation “shows the pressing need for our community to come together to address our housing crisis, economic inequalities, racial and social injustices, and to be mindful of the collateral consequences that the criminal legal system can have on destabilizing families and entire communities.”

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Horace Lorenzo Anderson (L) speaks about his son, Lorenzo Anderson, who was killed near a so-called autonomous zone in Seattle, Wash., in a June 29, 2020, photograph. (David Ryder/Getty Images)
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People walk near a barricade blocking traffic in Portland, Ore., on Dec. 9, 2020. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

Schmidt praised the occupiers in the statement, saying “many in our community would have never known about the plight” if not for them.

“Now, we understand and feel more keenly that foreclosures and evictions, even when afforded due process, can have cascading effects. The shame is that it took this type of an intervention to bring so many together to want to remedy the situation,” he added.

Schmidt also condemned violence and “intimidation tactics” and said it would be met with “aggressive prosecution.” In addition, he called for occupiers to remove the “heavily fortified blockades” while negotiations continue between the family that was going to be evicted and the property owner.

People in the zone were accused of attacking a journalist. The Portland Police Bureau (PPB) said the group “has been hostile toward police, journalists, and other community members,” and that the occupation has had a significant negative impact on the area.

Similar to the Seattle occupation, emergency vehicles are being blocked or delayed from reaching people in need. Residents have reported that they can’t move freely to and from their homes. Traffic and transit cannot pass.

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Mike Schmidt, Multnomah County district attorney, speaks to the media at City Hall in Portland, Ore., on Aug. 30, 2020. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images)
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Two protesters in black sit near a fire inside an eviction blockade in Portland, Ore., on Dec. 10, 2020. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

Police “recommend that anyone without a need to be in the area avoid it,” the bureau said in a statement.

Around the same time Schmidt released his statement, Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell called on the people in the zone to dismantle the barricades and let traffic flow.

“PPB appeals to those behind the barricades to dismantle them or leave them behind. That positive solution will reduce the likelihood that police may take action under circumstances that may necessitate the use of force,” he said.

Portland Mayor and Police Commissioner Ted Wheeler, a Democrat, this week authorized police to use “all lawful means to end the illegal occupation.”

“There was a lengthy, thorough judicial proceeding resulting in a lawful judge’s order to evict people illegally occupying a home. Multnomah County chose the time, place, and manner of the eviction and Portland Police provided support,” he added.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler speaks to the media at City Hall in Portland, Ore., on Aug. 30, 2020. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images)
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Masked individuals at an occupied home speak with a neighborhood resident in Portland, Ore., on Dec. 9, 2020. (Gillian Flaccus/AP Photo)

Occupiers have pushed back on the authorities’ description of what’s happening.

Lester Wrecksie, one of those arrested by police, said there’s been “misinformation” about the autonomous zone, including “overall general propaganda and smearing of the Kinney family that doesn’t include the family’s perspective at all” and a report that the family owns a second home.

“Know that this action is for Land Back. We are here fighting for Indigenous rights and because black lives matter,” Wrecksie said on Facebook.

“Anything else you hear is propaganda to turn you away from those providing mutual aid in the community. I’m still here and we’re not leaving.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated with new information from Mike Schmidt’s office.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber