PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon has been named one of five states at the highest risk of increased militia activity in the election and post-election period, according to a report which reviews the latest data on right-wing militia organizations across the country.
The new joint report comes from Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), a crisis mapping project, and MilitiaWatch, which researches U.S. militias.
Groups described as militias that have been active in Oregon since the beginning of the summer include Proud Boys, Patriot Prayer, III%ers, Boogaloo Bois and Sons of Liberty, according to the report.
“Much of the Pacific Northwest in general, and Portland specifically, has been a long-term battleground for struggles between armed and unarmed, right- and left-wing contingents,” the report said. “This history has led to some of the country’s most organized and prepared networks of mobilization.”
Also sounding the alarm for militias potentially enacting election-time violence is the Oregon Coalition Against Hate Crimes.
“We saw what happened in Michigan last week and the attempt to kidnap the governor as evidence that there is a real threat out there,” CAHC Chair Dr. Randy Blazak told KOIN 6 News on Tuesday. “And so we want to have federal, state, county and local law enforcements to have a clear plan on how to keep Oregonians safe.”
In addition to Oregon, the states of Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin were also listed as being at high risk for increased militia activity surrounding the election, particularly in capitals and peripheral towns, medium-population cities and suburban areas with centralized zones. North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, California and New Mexico were listed as being at moderate risk of election-related activity from militias.
The high-risk locations include those that have seen substantial engagement in anti-coronavirus lockdown protests, as well as places where militias might have perceptions of “leftist coup” activities, the report said. Regions that are at risk also include places where militias have been setting up recruitment drives or holding training for members, where militia members cultivate personal relationships with police or law enforcement or where there might be a friendly attitude by law enforcement towards militia presence or activity.
The report also stated that about 71 percent of demonstrations since the beginning of the summer in Oregon have been associated with the Black Lives Matter movement. There’s been a number of instances when these protests have been met with engagement with armed groups.
In addition, the report also noted a number of demonstrations supporting President Donald Trump, which have been on the rise since August, have involved armed militias.
The report made brief mention of non-right-wing groups, saying groups have organized “across the ideological spectrum” amid rising political tensions ahead of the election. However the vast majority of militias identified over the summer are right-wing and widespread while left wing groups have been less pronounced.
“[W]hile the specter of ‘Antifa’ looms large in the public imagination, violent activities associated with this non-centralized movement have been minimal, and are often expressed in cyber actions (like doxxing), and with minimal rioting that typically does not involve threats or harm to individuals,” the report stated.
Roudabeh Kishi, Director of Research and Innnovation at ACLED, told KOIN 6 News that the decentralized nature of antifa makes it a different type of movement altogether, compared to right-wing or other more devolved anti-government militias.
“If an individual is identifying as antifa but they don’t identify publicly as such, it becomes difficult for other people who might be doing the same thing to find each other and to mobilize together. And a lot of these right wing groups don’t have that problem,” Kishi said. “They all self-identify and they can get together and they can make plans so I think in that sense they’re really two different, like it’s apples and oranges.”
The report clarified that none of its assessment should be read as indicating an ensured outcome, but its intent is to underscore the high-risk threat environment that the run-up, election period and immediate aftermath represent. In its conclusion, the report stated the threat of violence may be high regardless of the election results.
“This isn’t like a crystal ball that violence will or will not occur or where it might occur in the places that we really highlighted, including Oregon, or it could occur in places that we did not highlight,” Kishi said.
She added that she hopes fears about potential election-time militia activity deters anyone from participating in voting.
“Everyone should really vote and I think this is a really important election and being engaged in the electoral process and not to let things like this intimidate you,” Kishi said.
According to the ACLED’s website, the organization’s coverage of the U.S. began in May as part of the U.S. Crisis Monitor project — a joint project between ACLED and the Bridging Divides Initiative at Princeton University. They collect real-time data on these trends in order to provide timely analysis and resources to support civil society efforts to track, prevent and help reduce the risk of political violence in the U.S.