PORTLAND, Ore. — Police are calling a shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York on Saturday a hate crime. Ten people were killed and three others were injured. In the aftermath of the shooting, experts in Oregon are weighing in on extremism in the Pacific Northwest.
Oregon is ranked as one of the worst areas in the nation for violent and hate-fueled extremism. A report from March about domestic terrorism and extremist attacks showed Oregon ranked the sixth highest in the U.S. for incidents between 2011 and 2020. The state accounted for 10% of all attacks in 2020 alone, despite Oregon ranking 27th in population.
The state's audits director and a former U.S. Attorney both pointed to a specific reason for the problem.
"We're one of only 16 states that do not have legislation criminalizing domestic terrorism," said Oregon Audits Director Kip Memmott.
"People need to be held accountable and if they know they're not going to be, then we see what the result is," said Billy J. Williams, former U.S. Attorney for Oregon.
Randy Blazak is the chair of the Oregon Coalition Against Hate Crime and he studies extremist ideology.
"It's really frightening how we're seeing the normalization of some of the rhetoric that drives white supremacist violence," Blazak said. "Making white people feel like somehow the world is out to get them."
Blazak tracks extremists and has a $750,000 grant for an anti-violence program called Cure PDX. The program aims to reach potential offenders and avoid racist attacks like in Buffalo, New York.
"I think people of color all over America today are having another reminder that there are people who want to kill them just for existing in their skin," said Blazak. "We're trying to get people to be more empathetic."