‘Salem a focus point’ for armed protests at Capitols


Sociologist Randy Blazak: 'Oregon has a long history of anti-government sentiment'

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon has a history of anti-government sentiment and as such riots elsewhere can inspire local groups to try and make the same attempt here.

That’s what Randy Blazak, the Oregon Coalition Against Hate Crimes, said.

The riot at the US Capitol in Washington DC prompted many to focus on security here in Oregon. The Oregon State Police said they are aware that armed groups are considering taking over the state Capitol in Salem.

Protesters clash with counter-protesters at the Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 in Salem, Ore. Thousands of President Donald Trump’s supporters caused violence and chaos in Washington while Congress attempted to vote to certify that President-elect Joe Biden won the election. (AP Photo/Paula Bronstein)

In late December a group of armed protesters opposed to COVID restrictions tried to force their way into the state Capitol during a special legislative session. Speaker of the House Tina Kotek confirmed Thursday Rep. Mike Nearman, a Republican from Independence, opened the door for the protesters.

Blazak said he’s not surprised some people showed up in Salem Wednesday to protest the election. He believe what happened in DC could also encourage someone to try it here again as well.

“Salem has been a target of these groups. And because of the coming together of these ideologies, Salem will continue to be a focus point, especially now that there has been this model — the assault on the Capitol,” he told KOIN 6 News.

When a mob of insurrectionists stormed the US Capitol on Wednesday, Blazak said he couldn’t help but look back to 1995 and the Oklahoma City bombing to note the similarities.

“That was an attempt by ‘patriots,’ people who called themselves ‘patriots,’ to strike a blow against what they saw as their version of the ‘Deep State’ to create a civil war or a second revolution in America,” he said.

That type of ideology has since gone mainstream with the help of the internet and the spread of conspiracy theories, he said. And in Oregon, there are plenty of people who follow it as well.

Supporters of US President Donald Trump enter the US Capitol’s Rotunda as reported tear gas smoke fills a corridor on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. – Demonstrators breeched security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the a 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification. (Photo by Saul LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

The riots are similar in tone to some of the situations that have already played in the Pacific Northwest, including the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

“Oregon has a long history of anti-government sentiment,” he said. “We’ve had a long tradition of militia groups in the state. We’ve had takeovers of federal land in eastern Oregon. We’ve had kind of the anti- government patriot movement in groups like 3%ers and the Oath Keepers that have been a part of our state as long as we’ve had white supremacist groups.”

Blazak said it’s also important to remember the communities that can be mentally impacted by the violence in DC, that it can have a traumatizing impact on Black and Brown people as well as members of the LGBTQ community.

FILE – In this Sept. 7, 2020 photo, a protester carries a Proud Boys banner, symbol of a right-wing group, while other members start to unfurl a large U.S. flag in front of the Oregon State Capitol in Salem, Ore. (AP Photo/Andrew Selsky, File)

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