Rioting Protesters Wearing Masks Could Face up to 10 Years in Prison Under New Oregon House Bill

The bill proposes to double the number of years a rioter could face in prison and increases potential fines to $250,000.

Oregon state Rep. Sherrie Sprenger (R-Scio) introduced a draft bill on Wednesday which would double the criminal penalties for protesters wearing masks during the commission of "riot crimes."

"In recent years we have seen an alarming increase of violent riots in Oregon," Sprenger said in a press release. "As a former Sheriff's Deputy, I know how important it is for law enforcement to be able to accurately and swiftly identify those who are involved in inciting these riots and committing crimes."

Under current Oregon law, rioting is a Class C felony and is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $125,000 fine. The new bill would increase those penalties to up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines if the protester had a partially or fully concealed face "with intent to avoid arrest or facilitate commission of crime, as aggravation" during the commission of the crime.

The bill seems unlikely to get traction in a short session of the Legislature that's focused on carbon emissions. But it's part of a national and regional trend seeking to crack down on masked protesters.

In Portland, such protesters are often antifascists, the subject of horrified fascination by conservative media. Portland has become a national target for right-wing groups, who want to fight those masked leftists.

During a press conference earlier this month, Portland Police Chief Jami Resch indicated that she anticipates a rise in such protests in the months ahead, especially because 2020 is an election year.

In July, former Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw called for an anti-mask law at protests.

"If you knew you could be easily identified, do you think you would be as inclined to commit that act of violence or commit that crime?" Outlaw said during the press conference.

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