Local GOP Chair considers using militias for future events
In response to violent clashes between different political groups at local rallies and protests, the Chair of the Multnomah County Republican Party says he is considering the use of militias to protect his GOP members at these events.
Party chair James Buchal told KATU that some of his members are afraid to attend rallies and fairs when they shouldn't be.
"We have little old ladies working at booths, handing out literature, and these people will come up and just begin shrieking at them in this unhinged manner," Buchal said. "There's been a couple of physical incidents and they are getting scared."
Buchal says he does not know much about militias, but says they would add another layer of security, in addition to police.
"There are a lot of private security forces in the world and private security forces are there because, like the old saying goes, when seconds count, the police are minutes away," Buchal said. "The choice that we face, is what do you do if your volunteers become afraid?"
Militias gained international attention during the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation last year. Militia leaders told KATU then, they were there to act as a buffer between law enforcement and protesters and to protect occupiers' first amendment right.
Joey Gibson, a Vancouver resident and video blogger, says militia members attended past events, including the January pro-Trump rally in Vancouver.
Gibson says members are there to ensure the rally and its participants are safe. Gibson told KATU he applauds Buchal for finding "new routes" in protecting free speech. He added that he has "complete faith" in police in keeping everyone safe.
Militia members are known to carry weapons. They are also trained in first-aid and advanced medical care.
"I don't have any interest in people walking around with AK-47s," Buchal said. "We're fumbling around trying to figure it out. We're a volunteer organization, we don't have hardly any money, what are we going to do?"
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler told KATU he fully supports Portland Police in ensuring safety and security. He says he will not tolerate violence of any kind and has directed Portland Police to take necessary action against violent outbursts.
The Portland group Direct Action Alliance says "they're concerned" certain members of the local republican party are "resorting to armed militias" and "this shows how far they are willing to go."
Portland Police did not respond to our requests for comment.
As the city continues to mourn the deadly stabbing last Friday, Wheeler recently called on the federal government to pull a permit for an alt-right assembly called "Patriot Prayer," which is planned for Sunday, June 4. The mayor said the community is angry, and "the timing and subject of these events can only exacerbate an already difficult situation."
Gibson is organizing the free speech rally, and said the mayor is attacking his group’s 1st Amendment rights.
Full statement from Direct Action Alliance:
Direct Action Alliance response to Oregon Republican Party call for armed militias and Patriot Prayer "free speech" rally:
The toxic rhetoric spewed by certain leaders within the Republican Party, mimicking the extremists who have taken power in Washington DC, have poisoned our community and given rise to multiple hate crimes and a terrorist attack in our own backyard.
When members of the community stand up to white supremacists, they label us terrorists and accuse us of stifling their free speech, they demand the right to discriminate against Muslims, they demand the right to tear families apart with deportations. They demand that the community stay silent and compliant in the name of national security.
Their rhetoric is heard in the murderous shrieks of alt-right terrorist, Jeremy Christian:
"Free speech or die, Portland. You’ve got no safe place. This is America. Get out if you don’t like free speech... Death to the enemies of America. Death to antifa [anti-fascists]. You call it terrorism. I call it patriotism. Die."
In a time of tragedy, they call for armed militias.
In a time of sorrow, they call for more weapons and confrontation.
The words of the monster, Jeremy Christian in court today, expose the virus of white supremacy to it's core. A virus that has been nurtured behind the shield of free speech, that has been spreading under the guise of patriotism. A virus that has now been normalized by the Trump regime.
It is time for true patriots to take a stand, it is time to put the grieving people of this country above our own ambitions.
Our community is in pain and our country is mourning.
For the leader of the Oregon Republican Party to use this tragedy for political posturing is beyond disgusting.
It is a true testament to how far the grand old party has fallen, it is a mayday call for the decent people within the party to take back control.
We are calling on Joey Gibson to cancel his "free speech" event on June 4. This will do nothing to further his cars and will only drive further divisions in the community.
Our community does not need another confrontation, our community needs to heal.
There are times when putting our neighbors above ourselves is the right thing to do.
We must not allow our ideology to cloud your humanity, we can all see how that is a very slippery slope.