Portland DA says he wants to ‘honor’ protesters by dropping charges
A day after authorities blamed lack of protester prosecutions for a violent looting outbreak in Chicago, the Portland area District Attorney, Mike Schmidt, says he won’t be prosecuting those who are arrested for ignoring orders to disperse.
“In a democracy where speech is so important, being the system that’s being criticized and then using that system to shut down speech,” Schmidt said, “I think we have to hold ourselves to an even higher level of tolerance for that speech to take place.”
The new policy, reports NPR, is that only protesters charged with “deliberate property damage, theft or force against another person or threats of force” will be prosecuted, but not those who are arrested for interfering with police attempting to restore order.
“We recognize that we undermine public safety, not promote it, if we leverage the force of our criminal justice system against peaceful protesters who are demanding to be heard,” said Schmidt.
Schmidt implied that protesters have only gotten carried away by the use of force from federal agents and local police when they tried to break up protests that have been declared unlawful, and so should not be charged.
“Consideration should be given to the chaos of a protesting environment, especially after tear gas or other less-lethal munitions have been deployed against protesters en masse,” Schmidt said.
Where people have suffered financial harm, Schmidt says that he’s going to give protesters some time to make restitution.
“We’re going to give people three months to make it right, to work with the victim to pay back any restitution,” Schmidt said according to OPB.org. “And if those things can happen or we can come up with a restorative resolution, we’re going to dismiss those cases.”
Restorative justice is an important concept with Schmidt.
He’d rather make arrested protesters do some type of community service that gives them another outlet to make their protests better heard, but he doesn’t have enough resources for that type of reeducation scheme.
“I’d be baking in some more restorative justice,” Schmidt said, lamenting the lost opportunity. “And maybe even more community involvement in the resolution of these cases … to kind of honor the fact that they were there protesting and wanting to be heard. And then creating a venue where they could do that as part of some sort of negotiated dismissal.”
But unfortunately for his progressive idea of justice, the county has more than 550 misdemeanor and felony charges to deal with from the protests, plus the most murders in 30 years, and a 180 percent increase in shootings for July that he needs to prosecute or plea bargain.
“The presumption on a lot of these cases that are listed out there is that we won’t prosecute,” Schmidt said about his ability to selectively prosecute. “But if there are egregious circumstances or something about the case that stands out, we can always choose to prosecute.”
PHOTO: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
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