PORTLAND, Ore. >> Facing a huge backlog of cases, prosecutors in Portland on Monday dropped more serious charges against the more than 100 protesters who have been arrested in the city since Donald Trump was elected president.
The protests continued on Monday as hundreds of high school students took to the streets, chanting slogans like “Peaceful Protest” and “No Trump, No KKK” as they marched across the city in the rain.
Almost a week of anti-Trump protests in Portland have ranged from peaceful to violent, when vandals smashed windows of businesses and cars and caused other mayhem. Portland Mayor Charlie Hales on Monday accused them of “criminal behavior.”
Police and prosecutors focused on the vandals, putting photos of them online and asking the public to help identify them or to contribute their own photos or video of them in the act of damaging property.
But nearly all of the more than 100 people who were arrested on charges such as attempted assault on a peace officer and disorderly conduct will instead receive traffic citations for failing to obey a police officer, according to a joint statement from Portland police and the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office. That offense is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000.
The statement said the “sheer number of arrests during protests over the last several days has been an exceptional event.”
The decision came as a surprise to some of those charged and their supporters who packed a courtroom in downtown Portland. They reacted with smiles and subdued calls of “yes!” when a woman from the DA’s office made the announcement about the more serious charges.
Earlier in the day, students walked out of at least four high schools and began an anti-Trump march through Portland, stopping first at city hall. Police did not interfere, but tweeted: “Parents encouraged to tell their kids to go back to school.”
Greg McKelvey, a protest organizer in Portland and head of an anti-Trump group called Portland’s Resistance, said local protesters are trying to coordinate with counterparts in New York, Washington, Austin, Texas, Oakland, California, Boston and several other cities.
“We’re going to go national, where we’re all organizing together,” he said in a telephone interview.
“Trump is going to be president, so we need to prepare for that,” McKelvey said. “Our group thinks the time to stop Donald Trump from becoming president was last Tuesday.”
He said Portland’s Resistance aims to make sure city and state governments are working on issues such as limiting climate change, advocating for single-parent health care and addressing racial disparities.
An online fundraising campaign to raise money for small businesses that were vandalized in the protests has received over $54,000. McKelvey, whose group renounces violence, is helping push for the funds.
Hales told Oregon Public Broadcasting that demonstrations can be peaceful, he but believes those in Portland are being used as cover for “outrageous, bad, criminal behavior.”
Police, meanwhile, announced that an 18-year-old who had been arrested in the shooting and wounding of an anti-Trump protester early Saturday was being released, after further investigation determined he was not the suspect.
They instead arrested a 14-year-old boy and placed him in a juvenile detention home on charges of attempted murder and unlawful use of a weapon. The driver of the car whose occupants confronted protesters is also charged in the case.
Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at http://twitter.com/andrewselsky.