Photo: Getty Photos/file
U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams announced today that 74 people are facing federal charges for crimes committed adjacent to or under the guise of peaceful demonstrations in Portland since at least May 29, 2020.
For more than 90 consecutive nights, Portland has been home to large demonstrations and protests against police use of force and anti-Black racism. On many nights, after peaceful demonstrations end, various public and private buildings have been the target of vandalism and destruction. Local, state, and federal law enforcement working to protect these buildings and ensure the safety of peaceful demonstrators have been subjected to threats and assaults from violent agitators while performing their duties.
“Violent agitators have hijacked any semblance of First Amendment protected activity, engaging in violent criminal acts and destruction of public safety,” said U.S. Attorney Williams. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office and our federal law enforcement partners are expeditiously working with local and state law enforcement to identify, arrest, and prosecute these individuals that are disrupting the rule of law in our communities and physically attacking our law enforcement officers and destroying property. Violent agitators not only delay real reform, but make our community less safe by keeping law enforcement from responding to other critical calls for service.”
“While the FBI supports and safeguards Constitutionally-protected activity and civil rights, there is no permit for assault, arson or property damage and these are not victimless crimes,” said Renn Cannon, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon. “Among the victims of violent crime are business owners, residents and individuals exercising their First Amendment rights through protests or other legitimate forms of expression.”
“The nightly violence has to stop,” said Russel Burger, U.S. Marshal for the District of Oregon. “It is drowning out the voices of the many who are calling for change, and pulling police resources away from their primary mission of keeping this community safe. We must all come together to find a productive way to move forward.”
“As the nation’s primary source for fire investigative knowledge, ATF remains committed to investigating those responsible for committing arsons in our communities and holding them responsible for their illegal actions,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Jonathan McPherson. “As a reminder, there is a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for arson. ATF takes these violent actions seriously and will work diligently to bring justice to the victims.”
“It is vitally important that all Americans have the ability to exercise their first amendment rights to freedom of speech,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations Seattle Eben Roberts. “Unfortunately, much of what we’re seeing in Portland is the antithesis of that. Instead tragic events are being used as excuses for individuals with ill intent disguising themselves as activists to commit violent crimes against their communities and law enforcement officers. Progress can only be made if community leaders, law enforcement and the public come together in the name of social change, justice and peace.”
Since May 26, 2020, federal law enforcement authorities have arrested 100 people for crimes committed during local demonstrations. Seventy-four face federal charges, including felonies, misdemeanors, and citation violations. Crimes include assaults on federal officers, some resulting in serious injuries; arson and attempted arson; damaging federal government property; failing to obey lawful orders; and unlawful use of a drone; among others.
Eleven others have been issued citation violations. All defendants, unless noted, are presumed to be local residents.
Several of the charges being used to prosecute violent agitators carry significant maximum prison sentences. For example, felony assault of a federal officer with a dangerous weapon is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Arson is punishable by up to 20 years in prison with a mandatory minimum sentence of five years.
It is important to note that while some federal charges require crimes be committed on federal property, others do not. Violent acts committed throughout the city of Portland under the guise of peaceful protest are being evaluated by local federal prosecutors for prosecution.
These cases are being investigated by the FBI; U.S. Marshals Service; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; and Federal Protective Service. They are being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon.
Indictments, complaints, and informations are only accusations of a crime, and defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
To help identify actors who are actively instigating violence in the city of Portland, the FBI is accepting tips and digital media depicting violent encounters during demonstrations. If you have witnessed unlawful violent actions, we urge you to submit any information, photos, or videos that could be relevant to investigations at fbi.gov/PDViolence.
Specifically, the FBI is assisting partner agencies by asking for the public’s help in identifying individuals who participated in or may have been a witness to criminal activity at the following locations:
• Near or inside the Multnomah County Justice Center in downtown Portland on the night of May 29, 2020 or into the morning of May 30, 2020. Details here: Justice Center
• Near the Chase Bank branch located at 811 SW 6th Avenue, Portland, Oregon, shortly before 1 a.m. on May 30, 2020. Details here: Chase Bank
Tips can be submitted by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324) or (503) 224-4181. They can also be submitted online by visiting: tips.fbi.gov.