At least 18 people are facing various federal charges after arrests at protests in downtown Portland over three nights of demonstrations, prosecutors announced Friday.
Protests over racial justice and bias in policing have taken place in Portland for more than two months, but the demonstrations grew in size and intensity with the arrival of federal officers in early July. Over the last week, thousands have gathered outside of the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse on a nightly basis.
Federal officers — including U.S. Marshals Service deputies and officers from the Federal Protective Service, Homeland Security Investigations, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection — have used tear gas, stun grenades and impact munitions to disperse protesters on many occasions.
The presence of federal officers in Portland was met with swift condemnation by local officials, including the mayor and city councilors, and Oregon’s congressional delegation after videos emerged on social media of officers detaining people and forcing them into unmarked vans. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum successfully argued for a temporary restraining order barring federal officers from using force, threats or dispersal orders against journalists and legal observers, though some officers appeared to ignore it in some clashes on Thursday night.
Billy J. Williams, the U.S. Attorney for Oregon, said that federal officers have used force in response to protesters who engaged in “assaults on law enforcement officers, destruction of property, looting, arson, and vandalism.”
In a statement released Friday morning, Renn Cannon, the Special Agent in Charge at the FBI’s Portland office, said the agency had been helping investigate crimes on federal property in the city.
“Our investigations involve specific violations of federal law, including arson, the use of improvised explosive devices, and interstate transportation of stolen goods,” Cannon said.
Charges against those arrested Thursday night and early Friday morning ranged from trespassing to assault on an officer and arson, Williams said, adding that “defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”
One of the people arrested, Jennifer Kristiansen, a 37-year-old lawyer from Beaverton, told The Oregonian/OregonLive she was standing arm-in-arm with a group of women as part of the Wall of Moms near the front line of protesters outside the federal courthouse on Tuesday night. She said, as the moms backed away with the rest of the crowd, she found herself near the edge of the group.
She heard a woman nearby say she had been hit by an officer’s baton. Kristiansen said she put her arm in between the officer and people retreating. Another officer, wearing a black uniform, arrived and pointed at Kristiansen.
“He said to the billy club guy, ‘That’s the one who hit me,’” Kristiansen said. Officers restrained her, turned her around and pushed her against the wall of the federal courthouse, she said, before she was led inside and held in a cell for several hours. No one ever read her rights to her, she said, and the officers did not identify which agency they worked for. She only found out what charges she was facing when a member of the sheriff’s department told her she was being charged with misdemeanor assault of a federal officer and for refusing to leave federal property.
All of those arrested have made their initial court appearances, Williams said, and have been released pending trial or “other follow-up court proceedings.”
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