A couple of legal truisms to remember:
Peaceful assembly and protesting is not a crime.
Violent rioting and vandalism under the guise of protesting can be a federal crime.
That second truism was reinforced yesterday by Billy Williams, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon, who issued a press release naming 74 individuals who were indicted in the month of July — and August — for actions connected to rioting at or near the Hatfield Federal Courthouse in downtown Portland.
I made a separate reference there August for a reason. As noted in the Press release, 72 of the individuals were indicted for conduct between July 1 and July 31, with the vast majority of those individuals charged in connection with activities from July 21 to July 31.
Only 2 individuals were indicted in connection with criminal activity in August. What happened?
As I covered at the time, on July 29th it was announced that the Oregon State Police would be deployed to Portland to assist with containing the rioters. Most significant was their agreement with the Trump Administration that the Oregon state and local law enforcement would clean out the Antifa/BLM staging areas in the parks and streets surrounding the Courthouse, where the rioters maintained their logistical base of support for the nightly attacks on the Courthouse.
That was accomplished on July 30, and the nightly attacks on the Federal Courthouse came to almost a complete halt. Antifa/BLM then shifted their activity to the Portland suburbs, targeting mostly County and Police Union buildings for their demonstrations and vandalism.
One amusing aspect I reported on at the time the federal charges were being filed was the fact that the “supervised release” conditions — the “bail” process in federal court — imposed on the rioters charged in federal court prohibited them from participating in further demonstrations. A violation of a release condition can result in immediate re-arrest followed by detention in custody pending trial. This likely added to the reluctance of some protesters from continuing with their activities at the Courthouse.
I’m confident that these pending prosecutions will not go the same way as the vast majority of cases that have been filed in Oregon state court by the local District Attorney who announced that his office would not even consider filing charges in connection with most arrests made during the protesting. Cases he has filed have largely been dismissed or resulted in simply misdemeanor convictions that do little to dissuade the rioters. The fact that the location for the rioting moved to the suburbs of Portland, away from the jurisdiction and “eyes” of federal prosecutors tells you the value placed on the “non-prosecution” policy adopted by the local district attorney. Getting arrested and spending a night in jail — when no charges actually develop therefrom — is a minor inconvenience for rioters.
Being indicted on federal charges that could result in many months or years in federal prison for the exact same conduct drives the decision-making to probably avoid risking federal prosecution by staying away from the federal building and federal agents.
72 charged for rioting over the final 10 days in July.
2 charged with rioting over the first 27 days in August.
The answer is in the math. The Oregon District Attorney should heed the lesson that he has a role to play in bringing this to an end.