An Oregon lawmaker is taking to the barricades in support of a man convicted of pointing a handgun at a crowd during a "Don't Shoot" downtown Portland protest in July 2016. But a looming court decision could overturn or vindicate that conviction.
Wearing a suit and tie, conservative blogger Michael Strickland sat silently at the desk of Sen. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer, during the short speech inside the statehouse on Thursday, March 21.
"He acted in self defense but was treated like a criminal," Thatcher told her colleagues. "Free speech is free speech. We as a body should honor the Constitution's explicit protections set aside for that."
Thatcher specifically spotlighted Strickland's treatment during a recent guest lecture organized by the College Republicans club at Portland State University. The Tuesday, March 5 encounter inside the student union building was derailed by a counter-protester who stood in front of a projector while ceaselessly ringing a cowbell.
Video of the incident lit up conservative corners of the internet with questions about why a PSU campus police officer stood by idly and didn't intervene during the hour-long disruption. (The university later released a statement saying the guard "used his professional judgment" in order to not "escalate a potentially unsafe situation.")
Fox News host Laura Ingraham went on to label the viral occasion as another example of conservatives being "deprived" of their free speech rights on campus.
Strickland's criminal conviction is currently being tested by the Oregon Appeals Court, who heard oral arguments in October of last year regarding the guilty verdict for 21 counts of felony unlawful use of a weapon, menacing and second-degree disorderly conduct during a bench trial in 2017.
Strickland's attorney, L.A. lawyer Robert Barnes, says appellate courts affirm trial court outcomes about 80 to 90 percent of the time.
"This case boils down to can you defend yourself? Can you assert your Second Amendment right to assert and protect your First Amendment rights? And will the State of Oregon recognize someone's personal life experience or will they reward the Black Bloc of Portland again?" Barnes said after the appeals hearing Oct. 12.
Strickland maintains he was threatened by a crowd of anti-fascists who were advancing on him, while prosecutors pointed out that no one was touching Strickland during the encounter and he had space to run away.
Court documents from the time say the then 36-year-old was standing outside the Justice Center when he unholstered a Glock and held it at chest level while pointing it "in a sweeping motion" across the crowd for four or five seconds.
Police later found he was carrying a pocket knife and five extra magazines of ammunition. The handgun was equipped with "an extremely large magazine" and had one round in the chamber.
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