The U.S. Department of Justice is making progress on the Trump administration’s promise to restore peace to America’s streets and hold violent protesters accountable.
In a statement on Thursday, U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams announced that 74 suspects have been charged with federal crimes for their actions during riots in Portland, Oregon, that have raged for months.
“Engaging in violent criminal acts”
Another 11 subjects were also cited on lesser charges, the statement confirmed.
The Justice Department has made public a list of names representing all those charged since protests began in the area in late May, shortly after the death of George Floyd while in the custody of police in Minnesota. Authorities from the department have been on the scene during that time to protect federal property from the threat of explosions, arson, and other damage.
While the list included more than 100 names, not all of the individuals had been charged. Among those who had, the criminal counts being pursued against them included assault on federal officers, failure to obey lawful orders, arson or attempted arson, damaging federal government property, and unlawful use of a drone, among others.
“Violent agitators have hijacked any semblance of First Amendment protected activity, engaging in violent criminal acts and destruction of public safety,” Williams affirmed in his statement.
He went on to stress that his office will continue working with federal, state, and local 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.”
“Make our community less safe”
Although some media reports have warned that outside agitators are potentially infiltrating local protests in an effort to make them appear more violent or destructive, evidence shows the vast majority of those facing charges in this operation are local residents.
Williams emphasized the inherent right of Americans to peacefully protest for change but said the type of criminal behavior his office is prosecuting will do nothing to help the situation.
“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 said.
FBI Special Agent in Charge in Oregon Renn Cannon echoed Williams’ concerns, noting that the bureau “supports and safeguards” the civil rights of all Americans but that “there is no permit for assault, arson or property damage and these are not victimless crimes.”
Nevertheless, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and other local Democratic Party leaders continue to call for the withdrawal of federal officers. As destructive protests drag on in Portland and elsewhere across the nation, some voters might begin to see the election as a choice between the party that wants to stop the chaos and the party that wants to stand in its way.