In the case of Portland Anti-Racist Action, the road to this week’s Rogue is paved with good intentions.
PARA put up 200 fliers July 7 along Northwest 21st and 23rd avenues outing neighborhood resident Julian Lee as the man who for months had been placing white supremacist stickers along those streets. (Lee didn’t respond to phone calls for comment but has since admitted responsibility on his website.)
The fliers provide Lee’s picture and address while describing him as “Nazi trash.” A post by PARA on portland.indymedia.org urges neighbors to “discourage Lee from further propaganda sprees.”
Portland Anti-Racist Action flyer about Julian Lee
Nobody is endorsing Lee’s despicable views. But Oregon ACLU executive director David Fidanque says Lee has a right to hold those views and to express them. PARA, Fidanque notes, is also within its rights to argue back.
“When it gets tricky is when speech leads to intimidation,” Fidanque says. “I don’t think that you eliminate unpleasant ideas or political theories through censorship, whether that censorship is privately imposed or government imposed.”
And the fliers strike us as a call for violence, since it’s far from certain that the kind of “discouragement” the group asks be brought down on Lee won’t involve destroying his property or worse.
There’s one more twist: Those who outed Lee to the public insist on anonymity for themselves. Contacted by WW, a PARA member identified himself only as “Don”—because, he said, there are “dangerous people out there.” However, Don said he isn’t worried about violence against Lee. “It would be beneath most people to do something like that,” he said.
It only takes one.