Oregon Officials Release United Statement Against White Nationalism and Voter Intimidation

The message was directed at right-wing paramilitary groups that have talked of a civil war commencing as the vote is counted.

Activists dressed as handmaids are common sights at Portland get-out-the-vote rallies. (Chris Nesseth)

Elected officials across Oregon on Wednesday condemned voter intimidation and efforts to stoke political violence in the wake of next week's election, in a pointed message directed at right-wing paramilitary groups that have talked of a civil war commencing as the vote is counted.

"We unequivocally condemn white nationalism and other movements that use bigotry to build political power," says the statement. "We also condemn political violence and accelerationism from any part of the political spectrum."

Gov. Kate Brown, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler led more than 30 elected officials in signing the statement, which was organized by Western States Center, a nonprofit that tracks extremism. (Disclosure: Rosenblum is married to the co-owner of WW's parent company.)

The officials' pledge includes "pursuing all legal options to prevent the use of firearms for intimidation purposes at or near polling places" and "pursuing the enforcement of any applicable anti-paramilitary laws."

That last point is particularly noteworthy; as the Portland Tribune has noted, civil rights organizations have repeatedly petitioned Wheeler to use such laws to block right-wing groups from coming to Portland for fights.

Amy Herzfeld-Copple, deputy director of programs for Western States Center, says her group is concerned about the risk of election-related violence by groups like the Proud Boys, the Three Percenters and the Boogaloo movement.

She noted she's still hoping for leaders of law enforcement agencies to sign on.

"We only had a few days to circulate the letter, but we're actually leaving it open for others to join us through Election Day," Herzfeld-Copple says. "I hope we do have interest from law enforcement leaders; [they are] a critical part of local government and ensuring that vulnerable community members feel safe to vote."

Wheeler has said that local, state and federal officials are working on a policy to respond to protests and rioting that could occur in Portland starting on election night. Previous unrest in Portland streets has often been started by leftists.

Meanwhile, the Defend Democracy Coalition that consists of 40 community organizations announced in a press release a plan for a peaceful nonviolent march planned for Nov. 4—the day after the election—starting at 3 pm at Revolution Hall from which they will march to the waterfront.

The march is for voter rights and the protection of democracy, an effort to remind people to stand together peacefully even if President Trump refuses to accept the results of the election.

Herzfeld-Copple says that by signing the statement today, elected officials across the state are pledging their cities will respond swiftly to halt voter intimidation and political violence.

"It's not just a statement of values," Herzfeld-Copple says, "but also a statement that could commit to specific actions that both elected leaders and civil society groups can undertake to make sure there's no room for hate or violence around or after the election."

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