Coalition Calls for Law Enforcement to Protect Marginalized Oregonians From Election Violence

The organization pushes law enforcement to create a strategic plan for potential post-election violence.

A Proud Boys gathering on North Portland on Sept. 26, 2020. (Alex Wittwer)

The Oregon Coalition Against Hate Crimes this week called on regional law enforcement agencies to develop a strategy to protect the state's people of color and other vulnerable citizens from violence surrounding the election in two weeks.

"There are those that are calling for a second civil war to begin in the next few months," the Oct. 20 statement says. "We must stand together against the calls for violence and division and law enforcement must play a role in preventing this catastrophe."

The statement arrived two days before National Public Radio revealed an academic report predicting Oregon is one of five U.S. states that could see an increased presence from militia groups around Election Day. Right-wing militants have repeatedly made shows of strength across Oregon during the Trump era.

Randy Blazak, a former professor at Portland State University and a leading expert on right-wing extremism, wrote the statement. He tells WW he plans to reach out to law enforcement agencies this week. Blazak says he's worried about what will happen following the election because this "language the president has used has added fuel to the fire."

"My fear knowing this particular culture is that there will be gun violence and there will be targeting. This is a different level of anxiety because they have a president egging them on," Blazak says. "We're pushing for some clear statements and action from out law partners. We need clear communication on how police are handling these different protesters."

The statement by the Oregon coalition says people are traumatized by the actions and presence of white nationalists openly bearing arms. It says their fears should be taken seriously by law enforcement.

The coalition calls for law enforcement to: reach out to vulnerable communities who have been targets of hate crimes in the past, come up with a plan to deal with election violence that may occur, communicate to its officers that they will be removed from their jobs if they engage in extremist activities.

"The Coalition Against Hate Crimes would like to use its collective voice to urge our partners in law enforcement to enact a cohesive strategy to protect Oregonians from those who have pledged violence around and after the election," the statement says. "This threat ranges from voter intimidation to acts of massive domestic terrorism."

It also encourages the Portland Police Bureau to tell the public ways they can report any hate crimes and bias incidents with the assurance an investigation will be conducted.

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