Oregon lawmakers call for DOJ probe into ‘extremist groups’

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – 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 Aug. 22. Video taken near SW 2nd Avenue and SW 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 a letter dated Aug. 30, Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, along with Representatives 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 these 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 OSP 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 PPB officers would not be standing between the opposing groups. He said this didn’t mean arrests wouldn’t be made.

The PPB this week asked for the public’s help to identify six suspects wanted for violence carried out during the Aug. 22 clashes (see slideshow below). Tips can be submitted online and tipsters can remain anonymous. Police said they have already 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. Anyone who was the victim of a property crime or other non-violent crime can make a report online and reference case number 21-681328.