PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Oregon State Police is ending its agreement to help Portland police protect the Hatfield Federal Courthouse, the scene of many of the protests over the past 76 nights.
The 2-week agreement was struck between Gov. Kate Brown and Vice President Mike Pence to get federal officers out of Portland after weeks of violent confrontations with protesters. But the violent protests are back and there is a growing split over whether those arrested will be charged.
KOIN 6 News learned the reason they’re ending their agreement is because they are angry over new Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt’s decision not to prosecute most of those arrested.
Since the protests began in Portland more than 75 nights ago, more than 500 people have been arrested. So far, less than 50 are being prosecuted.
In a statement, the Oregon State Police said:
“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.”
Asked if OSP troopers would be pulling out of Portland immediately, officials told KOIN 6 News the answer is yes.
Gov. Kate Brown also tweeted, “This transition was made in coordination with local and federal officials. If further state support is needed in Portland, OSP troopers will be available to return to the city.”
There is growing concern by law enforcement that protest violence in Portland may escalate now that Schmidt said he will not pursue cases against those arrested for interfering with police, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct if they don’t involve deliberate property damage, theft or force.
Wednesday night, protesters moved back downtown after nights of clashes outside the Portland Police Association building in North Portland. The protest was quickly deemed a riot and 2 people were arrested.
Police also said a large explosive and other fireworks along with rocks and bottles were thrown at officers. Among the police injuries was one officer who suffered a severe hand injury. Oregon State Police troopers were involved in the confrontation at the Hatfield Federal Courthouse, and after several hours Portland police used tear gas — which, by court order, they can only use if life safety is at risk.
Law enforcement leaders said they don’t arrest anyone until there has been hours of damage to property, arsons, attacks on officers and blocked streets.
Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese expressed his concerns protesters may feel even more emboldened if there is a public statement that appears to minimize their activities. (His full statement to KOIN 6 News is included at the bottom of this article.)
In emails obtained by KOIN 6 News, Reese wrote to Schmidt:
“I have a concern and a question. I didn’t realize riot was one of the charges you were presumptively dismissing. I haven’t read any of the PPB reports related to that specific charge but I have witnessed situations where it’s been used and the criminal behavior has been significant. I would recommend that charge be moved to a different tier.
“I was trying to understand bullet point #5. What is the intent?
“Are you still planning a press conference? The situation on the street is incredibly volatile with a really committed group of Antifa/anarchists starting fires, damaging property and assaulting police/community members. They may feel even more emboldened if there is a public statement that appears to minimize their activities.”
About 30 minutes later, Schmidt replied: “give me a call when you have a chance.”
KOIN 6 News reached out to the Portland Business Alliance, which represents thousands of downtown businesses. They declined to comment.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown released the following statement on Twitter:
“As has been planned for the last two weeks, last night was the final night for @ORStatePolice to take responsibility for keeping the peace and protecting free speech around the federal courthouse building downtown.
“I would like to thank the hardworking OSP troopers who have been away from their homes and families for the last two weeks, keeping the peace in Portland with professionalism, just as they do in their home communities all across Oregon.
“This transition was made in coordination with local and federal officials. If further state support is needed in Portland, OSP troopers will be available to return to the city.”