Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt announced today that his office will not be prosecuting protesters charged by police with some minor offenses. Unfortunately, that might give protesters a false sense of security because the policy does nothing to stop the Portland Police from arresting people in the first place. It just ensures their trip to jail will be brief. When someone is arrested they are taken to jail, the arresting officer files charges, and then the DA's office decides whether or not to prosecute based on the police reports. During that time the person arrested is either in jail awaiting arraignment or free on bail. Whether or not they are prosecuted, protesters are still at just as much risk of being arrested as they were before. The difference now is that they know that they will not be prosecuted unless they damage property or physically harm someone.
The charges that Schmidt says he will not prosecute unless they involve property damage or physical injury are:
- Interfering with a peace officer or parole and probation officer (ORS 162.247)
- Disorderly conduct in the second degree (ORS 166.025)
- Criminal trespass in the first and second degree (ORS 164.245 & ORS 164.255)
- Escape in the third degree (ORS 162.145)
- Harassment (ORS 166.065)
- Riot (166.015) Unless accompanied by a charge outside of this list.
Schmidt also said that all charges of assaulting a public safety officer (ORS 162.315) and resisting arrest (ORS 163.208) will be reviewed with heightened scrutiny. Property crimes like criminal mischief and burglary will be punished with restitution instead of jail. This is great news for in the fight police reform. Mike Schmidt was elected because he promised to reform the system in Portland. Schmidt kept his campaign promises with his decision today. Punishments should fit the crime without excessively harming the person being punished. If you break something, fix it or buy it. That should be enough.
This decision also shows that the protesters are winning. The criminal justice system in Oregon is not equipped to handle a flood of inmates booked on protest related charges. By overwhelming the system the people are taking it back. Whenever you can put the government in a position where they are not equipped to deal with you then you have an advantage. That advantage can then be leveraged to assure that your basic rights are protected. The government and those that support them will cry foul because you are not playing by their rules, but when their rules are written unfairly you are just leveling the playing field.
Major concessions like this show that real change is happening here in Oregon and it is all thanks to George Floyd. George Floyd did not die in vein and today we live in a better place thanks to him.