A scene from the June protest, pre-riot police.
A scene from the June protest, pre-riot police. Dirk VanderHart

A Multnomah County judge is hearing the state’s case against a Portland protester this week, in a trial that could impact the way Portland police handle large protests.

The case involves Jeremy Ibarra, one of the nearly 200 people corralled and detained by Portland riot police during a June 4, 2017 protest. This protest was held in opposition to another protest, one held by far-right group called Patriot Prayer at Terry Schrunk Plaza. The counter-protesters came to memorialize the two men killed on a MAX train just a week before.

Ibarra was one of the 14 people arrested during this police round-up (a tactic called “kettling”), charged with disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, for creating a “risk of public inconvenience… by engaging in fighting and violent, tumultuous and threatening behavior.”

What makes this case particularly interesting is its rarity.

According to lawyers familiar with protester cases, defendants facing a misdemeanor charge usually accept a plea deal for the District Attorney's office and are redirected to Community Court—where defendants are required to seek public restitution for their crime through community service, or they can agree to enroll in social services to correct personal “underlying issues” that led them to commit their crime in the first place.

Ibarra, however, rejected District Attorney Rod Underhill’s plea deal, forcing the case to go to trial.

Ibarra’s case, which is still in the midst of jury selection, has potential to clarify crowd control rules within the Portland Police Bureau. In a pre-trial hearing, Ibarra’s lawyer Crystal Maloney tiptoed around an argument that could derail the entire case: That Ibarra’s arrest was unlawful in the first place.

A scene from the June protest, after riot police showed up.
A scene from the June protest, after riot police showed up. Dirk VanderHart

Maloney argued that Ibarra was simply arrested for being in the wrong place at the wrong time—in the middle of a police officer kettle. His arrest was not “based on an evaluation of his individual behavior, but on his presence in a crowd of people,” Maloney writes in a court filing. While some in the crowd created barricades and threw objects at the police, she claims Ibarra was not one of them. Maloney argues that Ibarra is being unfairly charged for their actions.

The Multnomah County District Attorney’s office disagrees. Deputy District Attorney Katherine Martinez, representing the state in this case, argues that Ibarra charged at a line of police officers, an act worthy of his charge. There’s unclear evidence if this ever happened.

Judge Andrew Lavin ultimately rejected Maloney’s pre-trial motion—but noted that, if the state wins this case, Maloney’s argument could help flesh out an solid appeal.

This isn’t the only case involving the legality of PPB’s June 4 arrest tactics. The ACLU of Oregon has also sued PPB in federal court, accusing the bureau of detaining people without cause and violating their right to be "free from unreasonable seizure.”

The jury trial is expected to begin either later today or tomorrow.