The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Thursday that 74 people are facing federal charges stemming from clashes in Portland, Ore., amid protests over systemic racism and police brutality.
Portland’s monthslong demonstrations, sparked by the killings of Black Americans like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, have largely been peaceful, though have at times turned violent and led to looting and clashes with law enforcement, including federal agents deployed to the city this summer to protect federal property.
“Violent agitators have hijacked any semblance of First Amendment protected activity, engaging in violent criminal acts and destruction of public safety,” U.S. Attorney Billy Williams said in a statement. “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,” he added.
Among the charges the dozens of individuals face include assaulting a federal officer, destruction of federal property, arson, failing to obey a lawful order and more.
Eleven more people have also been issued citation violations.
Since late May, federal law enforcement authorities have arrested a total of 100 people for crimes committed during local demonstrations
“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.”
Clashes in Portland between demonstrators and law enforcement intensified in July after the Trump administration dispatched federal troops as part of an effort to protect federal property.
Oregon state and local officials denounced the federal presence and said it was not requested, but Trump administration officials defended the deployment, saying local law enforcement were not sufficiently equipped to defend federal property in the city that had been targeted by arsonists.