A onetime freelance journalist who covered political extremism in the Portland streets has been charged with vandalizing two Jewish temples and setting fire to a mosque.
Mike Bivins, 34, is charged with one count of arson in the first degree and three counts of criminal mischief in the first degree, related to what police describe as a weeklong string of vandalizing houses of worship. He’s accused of breaking a window at Congregation Shir Tikvah in Northeast Portland on April 30, throwing a rock through a window and scrawling anti-Semitic graffiti at Congregation Beth Israel in Northwest Portland on May 2 and 4, and setting fire to the Muslim Community Center of Portland on May 3.
Police had connected the attacks on houses of worship in recent days, after viewing footage of a masked man in a hoodie pouring accelerant on the mosque’s building, then lighting a fire. Police say Bivins walked into the KPTV Fox 12 television station in Beaverton on Friday and demanded to speak to a reporter.
Rabbi Michael Z. Cahana of Congregation Beth Israel released a statement expressing gratitude to temple staff and law enforcement for seeking information on the attacks.
“Should the alleged perpetrator be found guilty of these crimes, we can all rest easier in our house of worship knowing that he is in custody,” Cahana wrote. “Although the crimes committed were against property, we know that left unchecked, hate speech can lead to violence. We are grateful that we are all safe.”
Until recently, Bivins worked in nursing resource management at Oregon Health & Science University and was a freelance reporter for news outlets, including Willamette Week and Eugene Weekly, covering the polarization and violence in city streets following the election of President Donald Trump. He reported primarily on clashes between anti-fascists and their adversaries, such as the Proud Boys. Bivins sold photos and videos of street conflict to national and local outlets.
His last story filed for WW was in 2019. WW is conducting a review of his work.
Multiple people who spoke with WW said Bivins’ behavior and social media posts had grown erratic during the pandemic. He had made several posts to Twitter in April decrying immigrants.
In 2021, he filed a tort claim notice against the Federal Protective Service after being struck by a munition at a protest.