Oregon lawmakers call for DOJ investigation of 'extremist groups'
Oregon senators and representatives are asking U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate "extremist groups" following violent clashes between protesters last month in Portland.
Right- and left-wing groups gathered across the city on Saturday, Aug. 22. Video taken near Southwest Second Avenue and Yamhill Street on that day showed a man firing three shots from a handgun into the street in broad daylight. Bystanders reported the shooter pulled the gun as protesters gathered downtown. Other clashes between opposing groups involved paintball guns and fireworks in Northeast Portland.
In a letter dated Aug. 30, U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, along with Reps. Suzanne Bonamici and Earl Blumenauer, called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate "interstate criminal activity and coordination between extremist groups across state lines with the intent to commit acts of violence in connection with recurring violent altercations in Portland."
The lawmakers said far-right groups including the Proud Boys and others from out of state were involved in the Aug. 22 unrest that left "a wake of violence and chaos." They accuse the groups of carrying out actions in the Portland area that include assault, gun violations, potential hate crimes and others, some of which may be deemed federal crimes.
"Investigating domestic violent extremist groups that target otherwise peaceful demonstrations to incite violence must be a high priority, for the country has already seen the deadly results when extremists feel emboldened to acts of violence, vigilantism, and terror," the lawmakers wrote in their letter.
Portland authorities held a press conference prior to the Aug. 22 clashes to discuss what measures were being taken to protect the public. Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell said the city did not plan to call on the help of the National Guard despite staff numbers dwindling within the bureau.
"We have about 145 less people but within the resource constraints we have, we are working with partners to include (Oregon State Police) and local partners from the metro area to put together the appropriate resource package for this weekend," he said.
Lovell went on to say that Portland Police Bureau officers would not be standing between the opposing groups. He said this didn't mean arrests wouldn't be made.
The bureau this week asked for the public's help to identify six suspects wanted for violence carried out during the Aug. 22 clashes. Tips can be submitted online and tipsters can remain anonymous. Police said they already have identified at least six other suspects. Anyone who was a victim of an assault is asked to call the police at 503-823-3333 and reference case number 21-681328.
KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune.
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