PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A man accused of attacking three places of worship and a black-owned business in Portland pled not guilty on all charges Tuesday morning despite an earlier confession made to a local news station on May 6. 

34-year-old former freelance journalist Michael Bivins, now faces 11 charges, including 5 counts of bias crime, five counts of criminal mischief, and one count of arson for what court documents describe as ‘targeted attacks.’

Court documents accuse Bivins of vandalizing both Congregation Beth Israel and Congregation Shir Tikvah, setting fire to the Muslim Community Center of Portland, and damaging property at the local Black-owned restaurant Everybody Eats PDX over the course of just five days. 

According to the documents, from April 30 until May 4, Bivins targeted places of worship and minority-owned businesses, causing thousands of dollars in damage. 

During his second arraignment Tuesday morning, Bivins appeared was heard in court arguing against his own release from jail. 

When the attorney filling in for his council asked, “Do you want me to move for a release for you?” Bivins stated, “not really,” stating that he had previously been placed in release program housing and felt it was “corrupt.” 

Bivins’ distrust of the legal system was also echoed in his earlier court appearance May 9, during which he asked the judge if he could dismiss his own council. 

According to court documents, the former freelance journalist who often covered political extremism in Portland had recently become homeless and told police he had been sleeping on the streets most nights when he wasn’t staying at his mother’s house in Tenino.

Randall Blazak, the Chair of the Oregon Coalition Against Hate Crimes, told KOIN 6 News the newfound financial hardship Bivins was facing, is a detail often shared among perpetrators of hate crimes, who believe their opportunities have been replaced by minorities.

“People who are economically downwardly mobile, and we know this from the research, are more likely to gravitate towards those conspiratorial explanations about why their life is going in the direction that it’s going,” Blazak said. 

According to Blazak, hate crimes are on the rise in Portland and across the country. An assertion supported by data from the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, which reported 13 bias crimes have been issued in Portland in 2022, so far. 

“There has been an increase in hate crimes over the last few years,” Blazak stated. “Particularly targeting certain communities like the Asian American community in the Jewish community. We’ve seen a spike in antisemitic hate crimes.”

According to Blazak, this spike has been fueled by COVID-related financial instability and online conspiracy theories. 

“We’ve seen this with regards to COVID, the fact that so many people have experienced downward mobility and the world kind of got turned upside down in a very short period of time,” Blazak explained. “And some people, especially those people that kind of live in the internet world find these explanations, and the explanations give them an action plan -‘You have to do something to reclaim your status in society.’ And that’s one of the one of the leading reasons we’ve seen an increase in hate crimes targeting these specific groups.”

The Muslim Community Center of Portland – which Bivins is accused of trying to set fire to twice – released a statement on the attack to KOIN 6 News Tuesday, which reads in-part, “places of worship are sacred and disrespecting these places is unacceptable at the least and a crime at the extent we have seen perpetrated by this individual…the disease of hatred that we saw displayed this past week is one of the most devastating forces in the world. We have experienced its destruction here in Portland and around the world.”

Bivins is expected back in court June 27. Despite his argument not to be released from jail, court documents show his bail has been reduced to $45,000.