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Right and Leftwing Protests End in Violence In Portland

Protestors in Portland June 29, 2019. (Photo: YouTube screenshot)
Protestors in Portland June 29, 2019. (Photo: YouTube screenshot)

“That’s a direct threat against the lives of state police… All of this rhetoric — all of this right-wing, terrorist rhetoric is figuring into this conversation. It’s very, very scary.”

Political volatility escalated to violence in Portland, Oregon, on Saturday, as police declared a civil disturbance for clashes between right and leftwing protestors that led to at least three arrests and hospitalizations.

Oregon recently made national headlines when eleven Republican state senators fled the state in protest of a carbon-tax bill sponsored by Democratic lawmakers, who hold a majority in both the state’s House and Senate. The Republican lawmakers returned on Saturday after a nine-day walk out, having effectively sent the bill back to committee.

“Our mission in walking out was to kill cap and trade,” Senate Minority Leader Herman Baertschiger (R) said Friday, according to the AP. “And that’s what we did.”

Senate President Peter Courtney disputed the notion that Democratic lawmakers rewarded the other party’s walk-out with a legislative surrender, saying on Tuesday that the bill did not have the necessary votes to pass even before the GOP senators left. However, the state House version had already passed, and activists argue the state senate capitulated too easily.

Oregon state police said political demonstrations are usually peaceful, but the controversy surrounding the climate-bill dispute heightened tensions.

Before the walk-out, GOP state senator Brian Boquist raised alarms after threatening the state senate president, Peter Courtney, saying: “If you send the State Police to get me, Hell’s coming to visit you personally.”

Boquist continued the menacing rhetoric in a video, saying, “Send bachelors and come heavily armed,” in reference to state police. “I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon.”

Boquist was deemed a threat by an outside investigator on Saturday and barred from the floor.

“That’s a direct threat against the lives of state police,” Ginny Burdick, Oregon’s Senate Majority Leader, told Rolling Stone. “All of this rhetoric — all of this right-wing, terrorist rhetoric is figuring into this conversation. It’s very, very scary.”

Protestors Clash Following Legislative Clash

Hundreds of rightwing protestors, who were demonstrating against the climate bill, were met by leftwing marchers during the intermittent clashes. Andy Ngo, an editor and videographer for the conservative Quillette magazine, was attacked by Antifa protestors and allegedly had his camera gear stolen.

Critics argue lawmakers who refuse to vote are contributing to the hostile atmosphere by neglecting their duty and subverting democracy.

“The Republicans are not standing against climate change, they’re standing against democracy,” said Democratic Governor Kate Brown, who sent state police to return the deserting public officials, prompting their flight to Idaho where they could evade Oregonian jurisdiction.

The GOP state senators argued their actions were necessary because they believe the legislative overhaul would damage the state’s economy.

“House Bill 2020 institutes a carbon tax and the result of that is a massive gas tax increase of about 22 cents a gallon,” he said. “It makes us uncompetitive in manufacturing jobs and we will lose thousands of manufacturing jobs.”

Despite their minority status, Oregon’s GOP state senators have proven able to veto Democratic proposals by simply refusing to vote. They also walked out earlier this legislative session to derail a school funding tax package.

“This is not how our democracy is supposed to work,” said Tara Hurst, executive director of the lobbying organization Renew Oregon, which worked on the state climate bill.

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Peter Castagno

Peter Castagno is a freelance writer with a Master’s degree in International Conflict Resolution. He has traveled throughout the Middle East and Latin America to gain firsthand insight in some of the world’s most troubled areas, and he plans on publishing his first book in 2019.

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