Open Letter: Oregon Republican Leadership Must Stand Up for Equality and Love as Well as Liberty

Some Oregon Republican leaders failed in their response to the horrendous actions of Jeremy Christian. We are not surprised. Failing to adequately address hateful actions and rhetoric has become a trend with many in today’s GOP leadership. Today, all Republicans must do as Oregon House Minority Leader Mike McLane did on the house floor and state that “hate has no place here.” All Oregonians deserve to know that the leaders of both parties are ready to stand up for all people in this state, regardless of race, religion, birth place, or anything else.

We left the Republican Party after the rise of Trump, and with him, the return of organizations who believe it is acceptable to openly espouse white nationalism and other bigoted beliefs. The degree to which such organizations previously had quiet support is unclear to us, but there is a dangerous new emboldening of such groups, and a failure by many in positions of responsibility to properly denounce their hateful affiliations. We support the right of those organizations, and the individuals who share their views, to speak, but we denounce what they say and we denounce the violence that foments in their wake. We call on all of Oregon’s Republican leaders to do so as well. Unequivocally. Jeremy Christian’s terrorism was a foreseeable outcome of the normalization of racist and bigoted rhetoric. We understand that he may not have been affiliated with the far-right “free-speech” groups, but he certainly believed he belonged with them and he (rightly?) believed that they shared his hateful views.

So, what was wrong with the responses from some in Oregon’s GOP? Oregon GOP Chairman Bill Currier did not issue a press release regarding the slayings of Rick Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai- Meche. He did not issue one regarding the hateful rhetoric used by the perpetrator during his attack, or one regarding the perpetrator’s known participation in recent Portland “free-speech” rallies. Instead, he spent his time slamming Mayor Wheeler’s request that the rallies scheduled for June 4 and June 10 be cancelled. Those rallies, which Chairman Currier defends, are a “Trump Free Speech” rally put on by Based Stickman and Based Spartan, and an “Anti-Sharia” rally. Based Stickman and Based Spartan got their nicknames from the pseudo-armor costumes they wear at rallies and the violent acts they committed against people protesting their hate-filled rallies. These events are happening weekly all over the country and “free-speech,” in this context, is used to defend their right to repeat lines from President Trump; namely, that Muslims should not be allowed in the country and that Mexico is sending us its rapists and murderers. Here in Portland, Jeremy Christian attended these rallies before committing his hate-filled crime. We hope that Currier does not fully grasp the genesis of these organizations, or that Jeremy Christian was a participant at these rallies, but that information is easily available. Regardless, it is vitally important that Currier distinguish the Oregon GOP from those groups rather than rising so quickly to defend to them.

Worse than the Oregon GOP’s response was that from Multnomah County GOP Chairman James Buchal. Buchal advised the media that he is “thinking about” using militia groups as security forces to defend right-wing rallies. In an article from The Guardian, Buchal acknowledged considering inviting two armed mobs to Portland to “protect” his rallies. He does not believe the Portland police are adequate protection, so he would intentionally bring an army into the city. Buchal says that the left feels justified using force to stop hate speech, so he apparently thinks he is justified in showing force to propel his message. How is this the leadership of the Oregon Republican Party? Yes, these groups have the right to hold their rallies, but does Mr. Buchal really think it’s a good idea to bring a militia into the city? What does he think will happen?

Freedom of speech is existentially important to our country. So is the inherent equality granted to all Americans as stated in our founding creed and protected by the Constitution and its Amendments. The Republican leaders who call for the protection of free speech must also denounce the hate and anger seen at these rallies. They must denounce the hate-spreading organizations by name. They must make it clear that these organizations are not endorsed by, or approved of, in any way, by the Oregon GOP. It is possible to defend free speech while speaking out against a hateful message. A party whose leadership does not do both is a party not worth participating in. If the Oregon GOP is not prepared to denounce the growing hateful rhetoric, then the Oregon GOP needs new leadership. We re-affirm the right to free speech. This year, today, now, though, our leaders also need to have the decency and the courage to stand up for equality, tolerance, love, and living together peacefully.

For Your Consideration,

— John Boylston, City Councilor of King City and 2016 candidate in the Republican primary for HD 26
— Patrick De Klotz, 2016 Republican candidate for HD 38