Tracking the white supremacy movement in Oregon

Tracking white supremacy movement in Oregon

PORTLAND, Ore. -- In Oregon, origins of the white supremacy movement go back to when the state was first formed. It's partially why we've seen clashes at local protests between anarchists and white nationalists.

Portland has seen some groups rally and march in the past year. Known white supremacists were seen at the march that ended up canceling the 82nd Avenue of Roses parade in April in Southeast Portland. They have appeared at various protests downtown since the election.

Sociology Professor Randy Blazak has studied hate groups for decades.

"They've been existing online for the last eight or 10 years and now they're feeling emboldened enough to come out on the streets.They see themselves at a point in history where this is their last chance to 'save America'. If America was created for and by white males, they want to keep it that way. This is the one opportunity they feel they have a fellow traveler in the White House and they feel they have one shot at rescuing America from the immigrants and from homosexuals, Jews and everyone they see as their enemies," Blazak said.

Professor Blazak has been busy this week. He appeared on CNN to talk about Charlottesville on Saturday, and explained how Oregon fits into this national trend to the local media Monday.

"Oregon has a long history, it was founded as a white-only state in 1859, we had the exclusion laws that existed through the 20th century, we've had hate groups here. The Klan ran the governor's office in the 1920s so it's part of our history and explains why Portland and Oregon in general is so white."

Blazak says the term 'white nationalist' is just a new name for white supremacist. He says they want to keep America in white power, and he sees their movement growing.

"As they make their case and have more confrontations with people they perceive as their enemies, including when they're beaten up by people, that adds to their story that they're the victims of history, they're going to pick up more followers," Blazak said.

Sunday in Seattle, various groups held a protest in response to Charlottesville.

"I do not stand with that. I have no idea what happened yesterday but they did it on purpose to tear apart this country," shouted 33-year-old Joey Gibson, speaking into the microphone on stage in downtown Seattle, condemning the violence in Charlottesville.

The Vancouver real estate investor founded the group Patriot Prayer in 2016. He's not a veteran, he's not white, he voted for Trump and says he doesn't side with either liberals or conservatives. "You can't pin me down with a label, it's not going to work," he laughed.

Gibson says he's a moderate Libertarian, who started out putting together pro Trump rallies in 2016. Then he realized he wanted to be a voice for free speech, respect for all beliefs and wanted to get politics out of the discussion.

Gibson says he tries to keep his events peaceful, but some of his rallies have been criticized for attracting known white supremacists from around the country to fly to Portland and speak. Gibson is trying to shake that connection, even though he says they should be allowed their free speech rights as well, but no violence.

"I don't think those people like white nationalists or white supremacists, I don't believe they have any pull in our country. If they had so much pull, they wouldn't be trying to latch on to our liberty movement," Gibson said. "I'm just against identity politics. I don't want to focus on race, I don't want to focus on that. We don't need extremists on both sides. We don't need antifa, we don't need communists, we don't need the extreme hard core right, we don't need that. The moderates are who run this country and the extremists are the ones who are always trying to divide us," Gibson said.

Patriot Prayer will be hosting a freedom march Sept. 10 in downtown Portland. Gibson says it's in line with the anniversary of Sept. 11 and will be a somber gathering to promote peace and a healthy dialogue.

© 2017 KGW-TV


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