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Oregon state police withdraw from Portland after 2 weeks of protest duty

Portland protests return downtown
Police use tear gas early Thursday to disperse demonstrators in downtown Portland.
(Sean Meagher / The Oregonian)

Oregon State Police are leaving Portland after a two-week assignment to help protect a federal courthouse targeted by protesters during months of conflict in Oregon’s largest city.

The state police are “continually reassessing our resources and the needs of our partner agencies, and at this time we are inclined to move those resources back to counties where prosecution of criminal conduct is still a priority,” Capt. Timothy R. Fox told television stations. “Last night was our last night in Portland.”

Nights of unrest centered on the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse previously prompted President Trump to dispatch federal agents to guard the building in July, which in turn reinvigorated Black Lives Matter demonstrations that often ended in violent clashes.

The federal agents started drawing down in late July under an agreement between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Gov. Kate Brown. The deal called for state troopers to take the agents’ place for two weeks.

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Earlier this week, newly elected Multnomah County Dist. Atty. Mike Schmidt decided not to prosecute people arrested for nonviolent misdemeanors. Since the protests began, over 500 people have been arrested. So far, fewer than 50 are being prosecuted.

Schmidt has said that the new policy recognizes the outrage and frustration over a history of racial injustice that has led to the protests as well as the practical realities of the court system, which is running months behind in processing cases because of COVID-19.

Demonstrators returned to the courthouse Wednesday night and clashes continued into the early morning hours Thursday as some people threw objects as well as set off fireworks and police used tear gas on the crowd, authorities said. Two protesters were arrested, and one officer suffered a hand wound described as serious.

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It wasn’t clear what the departure of the state police will mean at the federal courthouse as demonstrations continue against police violence and systemic racism. Fox said state police will reassess whether Portland police need assistance.


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