(Headline USA) The Justice Department explored whether it could pursue either criminal or civil rights charges against city officials in Portland, Oregon after clashes erupted there night after night between law enforcement and rioters, a department spokesperson said Thursday.
The revelation that federal officials researched whether they could levy criminal or civil charges against the officials — exploring whether their rhetoric and actions may have helped spur the violence in Portland — underscores the larger Trump administration’s effort to spotlight and crack down on riots.
For many nights, federal officials were told that Portland police officers were explicitly told not to respond to the federal courthouse as hundreds of rioters threw bricks, rocks and other projectiles at officers, and not to assist federal officers who were sent to try to quell the violence.
The department had done research on whether it could pursue the charges, spokesperson Kerri Kupec said.
She declined to comment on the status or whether charges would be brought.
But bringing criminal civil rights charges against city officials for the violence would likely present an uphill court battle for federal prosecutors.
Justice Department officials disputed news reports that Attorney General William Barr told prosecutors in the department’s civil rights division to explore whether they could bring charges against Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan for allowing agitators to establish a “protest zone” — first known as “CHAZ,” then “CHOP” — this summer.
Durkan famously said in a TV interview that the zone could usher in a “summer of love,” which proved to be far from the truth.
President Donald Trump has blamed the Democrats who control the major cities — and specifically pointed to Portland’s mayor Ted Wheeler — who he says have not done enough to stop nights of looting and riots in cities across the U.S. Trump has called Wheeler a “wacky Radical Left Do Nothing Democrat Mayor” and has said the city “will never recover with a fool for a Mayor….”
More than 100 people have been arrested in Portland on federal charges related to the riots in the last few months.
The FBI has said it was also shifting the agency’s resources to focus more heavily on violence and federal crimes committed during nearly three months of nightly riots in the city that end in vandalism, clashes with police and dozens of arrests — with many suspects released again and again to destroy and riot more by local district attorneys.
Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.