Portland Community College Cancels Event After Right-Wing Group Threatens To Show Up On Campus

"It could be chilling."

Portland Community College, courtesy PCC.

Portland Community College cancelled an on-campus event planned by the Portland Democratic Socialists of America after right-wing agitators threatened to show up and disrupt the teach-in.

The event promised a short talk on the concept of job guarantee from PCC economics professor Mitch Green, and a discussion on the Green New Deal by a panel of DSA members.

But an email from PCC public safety officials shows that the college cancelled the event after threats.

"PCC Public Safety was made aware of a possible planned disruption to tonight's event that may have had an impact on the safety of the academic community and event attendees," writes campus safety officer Lt. Erik Hargrove in an email to Green. "To ensure the event could be held safely, and successfully, a mutual agreement between Public Safety and the organizers was made to accommodate the event at a date/time that sufficient pre-planning could take place."

DSA co-chairwoman Olivia Katbi Smith says the cancellation was not mutually agreed upon.

"Portland DSA is extremely disappointed to announce that Portland Community College's campus security department has cancelled this evening's teach-in for economic rights and climate justice because of threats from the right-wing street gang Patriot Prayer," she said in a statement. "A handful of Patriot Prayer members have suggested on social media that they planned to attend the event, and PCC's security has deemed themselves unable to respond appropriately. We strongly disagree with this decision, which was made without consulting our organizers or our dedicated safety team."

Green says he's disappointed the event was cancelled, but hopes to work with DSA organizers and the college to reschedule.

"It could be chilling for sure," he says, "but I wouldn't personally say that I think PCC is in the interest of stifling academic freedom."

In emails, Hargrove said the college is open to rescheduling the teach-in. The college's security team says it wants to ensure safety for students, staff and faculty.

"PCC's Department of Public Safety prioritizes the safety and security of the academic community and the events taking place on college property," says PCC director of Public Safety Derrick Foxworth. "With this in mind, we opted to postpone tonight's DSA event. The short turnaround time did not allow for necessary safety planning and staffing of the event."

Katbi Smith says PCC's decision may embolden Patriot Prayer to continue threatening left-leaning activists.

"Patriot Prayer is motivated to disrupt and disband our meetings, and the decision to cancel this event is a victory for them and their tactics," she said. "While Patriot Prayer often touts 'Free Speech' as the motivation for their disruptive rallies, PCC has effectively stifled the free speech of Portland DSA and allowed Patriot Prayer's hostile tactics to intimidate them. Decisions like this will encourage them to continue to suppress positive organizing, and will only embolden them in the future."

Patriot Prayer members, some of whom belong to the often-violent far-right men's fraternity called the Proud Boys, have been harassing the Portland DSA chapter for the past week. The group showed up at a DSA meeting on Jan. 17 at the Industrial Workers of the World union hall. Security turned them away at the door, but they clashed with a group of people who were not attending the DSA meeting across the street.

On Jan. 19, Patriot Prayer marched through southeast Portland, again in front of the IWW building. A few verbal spats and minor physical scuffles broke out.

Late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, the IWW union hall, nearby bar Cider Riot, and the Democratic Party of Oregon building were all vandalized with graffiti targeting antifascists and the "left." Patriot Prayer leaders have denied any involvement with the graffiti.

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