U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams, chief federal law enforcement official in Oregon, said this week that the media should be held accountable for not calling the Portland riots out for what they are: criminal violence.
In a recent interview with KGW-TV, Williams said that the ongoing riots in Portland, specifically targeting Portland's federal courthouse, said that the behavior is "pretty disgusting."
"This is just mindless violence and anyone who defends the violence is enabling this to continue, so that's unfortunate," he said.
Williams said that the community should be working together to formulate a plan of protection for the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse — the focus of the nightly riots.
"It's not a law enforcement solution, we're responding, dealing with it, protecting this property just like the city police are protecting city property, but any real solution to stop the mindless violence that goes on has to come from the community, and I include various community leaders, faith leaders, business leaders working with whoever wants to join in a coalition," he said in the TV interview.
Rioting is 'hijacking the moment' when a change is most needed
Williams said that change is certainly needed following the death of George Floyd, who was killed in Minneapolis police custody in late May, but violence, rioting, and criminal behavior are not valid or justifiable solutions to effect change.
"[T]his activity is just, it's hijacking the moment in history, right?" he asked. "There are opportunities following the murder of George Floyd and the thousands and thousands of lawful protesters and groups calling for change, which everyone can agree there's a change needed, so this is one of those moments in history where it can occur — but it's being held back by this."
Elsewhere during the conversation, the TV reporter asked Williams, "Some say what politicized this ... is the federal agents being here."
"Yeah, the federal agents being here are protecting federal property — this is not accurate. Blaming federal agents for protecting federal property is an easy out for people who want to politicize this," Williams fired back.
"Portland is losing its soul right now and what's coming out of City Hall — calling cops liars, that they're the ones of starting the fires and then blaming the protesters. I mean, how ridiculous is that? That's not leadership," he insisted.
'It sounds like a party. It's criminal.'
The reporter later tried to grill Williams over what he said were "late night demonstrations" and "late night activity," but Williams was ready to hit back at the vague tack the reporter was apparently trying to take in the discussion.
"These aren't late night demonstrations," he insisted. "This is criminal activity. There's a difference. What you have failed and the media have failed to distinguish between, you seem unwilling to call people engaged in criminal conduct, as criminals, as opposed to lawful protesting."
Williams continued, saying there's a vast ocean of difference between "lawful, constitutionally protected protest" and "unlawful" behavior egged on by opportunists, antagonists, agitators, and anarchists.
"Call it out for what it is," he insisted. "You seem to refuse to call something — 'late night activity.' This is criminal."
The reporter responded, "I just said the late night activity that you say is criminal, right?"
Williams responded, "What I'm saying is, why can't you call it out as such?"
The reporter lamely responded, "Because I'm not, I don't have all police records."
"You're using 'late night activity,'" Williams responded. "It sounds like a party. It's criminal. Look at the debris. We haven't had a front door since July 3. That's criminal, OK?"
The reporter attempted to circumvent Williams' point, but Williams wasn't having it.
"But I'm just saying, I'm not a police officer, I don't get to distinguish that, that's not my job," the reporter added.
Williams concluded, "No, but you can call it out for what it is. You're choosing terms that sort of downplay the criminal activity and what I'm suggesting is if there is an honest accounting of what this is, that helps build the reality check for how this can stop. That's my point."
RAW Interview: U.S. Attorney Billy Williams discusses damage, debris outside federal courthouse www.youtube.com