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Tough words aren't enough, Portland mayor wants action against repeat rioters

#MayDayPDX protest march turns riot in Downtown Portland - KATU photo taken May 1, 2017 by Tristan Fortsch

Following violent clashes between police and demonstrators at a May Day march and protest, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler says he directed the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office to pursue harsher charges and penalties for repeat offenders arrested at protests and riots.

Given Portland's protest history and posts on social media, Wheeler says he expected violence. However, he says he was surprised by how quickly the event turned.

"I don't want to see a revolving door," Wheeler said in an interview. "There are people who are habitually engaged in vandalism or violence in our community. They shouldn't just walk scot-free... they will be prosecuted."

25 demonstrators were arrested Monday, and three of them were under 18 years old.

Multnomah County Chief Deputy District Attorney Kirsten Snowden says the majority of those arrested received misdemeanor violations. She says charges could be dropped or added once police reports and media -- such as video and pictures from the event -- are reviewed.

"It's not uncommon for charges to change," Snowden said. "Whether that means charges are dismissed or reduced or increased, all of those options exist."

Under Wheeler's directive, Snowden says first-time offenders who are involved in protest-related behavior, where there is no violence or destruction, will likely only receive a violation.

If a second arrest occurs, Snowden says a demonstrator may face a criminal charge.

A third arrest, Snowden says, and a demonstrator would not be eligible for diversion courses or specialty courts that may otherwise allow them to receive a reduced sentence or charge.

Snowden says some riot charges are felonies.

Portland police pulled the permit for the march after demonstrators began smashing windows and throwing objects at police near the U.S. District Court building in Downtown Portland, not long after the march began.

Wheeler praised the swift action taken by police officers.

"It is something that I certainly support," Wheeler said about police taking an aggressive response than in past protests. "Under no circumstances would we accept violence or vandalism. We have set clear standards, we have upheld clear standards and that's what I'm going to continue do as mayor."

Wheeler said the city will allow permits for future protests.

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