We recently discussed how the plea agreement with a BLM protester (who tried to cut the brake lines on a police vehicle) may indicate a significant shift from the Trump Administration in prosecuting violent protesters. New figures out of Portland would indicate that there is such a major shift occurring. The Justice Department are dropping 58 of the 97 criminal charges brought after the Portland riots, including assaults on officers.
I previously criticized the federalization of these protest cases. Local police were clearly relying on the federal government — as opposed to their own local prosecutors — to address violent protesters. Yet I was also critical of the role of local officials in dismissing and even in some cases fueling such violence with their rhetoric or inaction. There is clearly a reluctance by many local officials to prosecute violent protesters. Indeed, cities like Atlanta have dropped charges against protesters. Most of the charges brought for violent protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd were dismissed.
One of those defendants who saw their charges dropped in Portland was David Bouchard who admitted that he put a Customs and Border Protection officer in a chokehold. Likewise, the Justice Department dismissed the charge against Charles Comfort who was indicted by a grand jury of civil disorder for twice charging at Portland Police Bureau officers and hitting them with a makeshift shield and kicking a third officer.
Once again, I remain opposed to using federal charges in many of these local cases, but the decision was to pursue these individuals in the federal system. Now they will walk without any prosecution. There are reportedly 31 deferred resolution agreements (DRA) signed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Portland, including 19 charged with felonies and some involving alleged assaults on federal officers.
We recently saw a belated change in the rhetoric of some leaders like Portland’s Mayor Ted Wheeler finally condemning anarchists (though he avoided specifically mentioning Portland’s homegrown Antifa group). While such leaders previously blamed the Trump Administration for the protests, they have continued unabated after the election, including continued rioting in Portland.