Oregon Senate Cancels Saturday Session Amid Reports of Militia Groups Protesting at Capitol

“The State Police Superintendent just informed the Senate President of a credible threat from militia groups coming to the Capitol tomorrow.”

Oath Keepers at a Portland protest in 2017. (William Gagan)

Oregon Senate Democrats hastily cancelled a planned Saturday floor session late Friday afternoon, citing reports that right-wing militia members were planning to rally at the Capitol.

Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward (D-Portland) posted on social media a text message from Senate leadership, stating that the Saturday session was cancelled.

"The State Police Superintendent just informed the Senate President of a credible threat from militia groups coming to the Capitol tomorrow," the message says. "The Superintendent strongly recommends that no one come to the Capitol and President [Peter] Courtney heeded that advice minutes ago."

Courtney's office confirmed to WW that police had informed him of a threat.

"The Oregon State Police have advised us that there might be a militia threat tomorrow, so the Capitol building will be closed," said Carol McAlice Currie, Courtney's communications director. "We don't have any details beyond that one."

The cancellation comes on the heels of right-wing militia members offering armed protection to Republican Senators who have denied Democrats a quorum by disappearing, probably across the Oregon border into Idaho.

Republicans left the Capitol on Wednesday, trying to block the passage of a cap on carbon emissions. Sen. Brian Boquist (R-Dallas) implied that he would shoot and kill any Oregon State Police officer sent by the governor to retrieve him.

That outburst seemed to embolden right-wing militia groups, which pledged Thursday to protect the Senate Republicans while they fled the Capitol. Those groups included members of the Three Percenters, an anti-government militia.

Senate Republicans repudiated that offer Friday morning.

It was not immediately clear this afternoon what rally was considered "a credible threat." Freelance journalist Dick Hughes reported from Salem that the Marion County Republicans planned to occupy the Capitol building Saturday.

Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) and House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) issued a late Friday afternoon statement condemning Boquist's remarks.

"Law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day in the name of protecting Oregonians and should never be subject to these kinds of threats, let alone from a public official," Kotek and Courtney wrote. "His comments have created fear among employees in our workplace. We will always defend free speech and welcome frank policy discussions, but threats like these are unacceptable."

Steiner Hayward went further, and blamed Boquist for stoking fringe elements.

"Not only have they broken their oath of office," she said on Twitter, "their member's threat of violence has instigated others to threaten us for trying to do our jobs & serve Oregonians."

Steiner Hayward has since deleted her tweet.

The response of the Oregon Republican Party's officials Twitter feed to the session cancellation was scornful: "Oregon senate Democrats canceled their weekend session citing a fear that Republican voters may show up."

Spokespeople for the Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans did not immediately return requests from WW for comment.

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