Right-Wing Paramilitary Groups Activate After 11 GOP State Senators Flee Oregon

A rally-goer holds a Three Percenters flag at a Patriot Prayer rally in Portland, Oregon. (Jared Holt for Right Wing Watch)

Every Republican state senator in Oregon has gone into hiding, many leaving the state, ahead of a vote on a carbon cap-and-trade bill. After Oregon’s governor authorized state police to bring the Republican senators back to the capitol for a vote, the state’s chapter of the “Three Percenters” paramilitary organization began agitating its ranks.

House Bill 2020, which passed in the Oregon House on Tuesday and headed to the Senate for a vote, has the support of the state’s governor. The climate protection bill, OPB reports, would “create a cap-and-trade system to regulate greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation, manufacturing and utility sectors.” New York magazine reports that although Democrats have enough votes to pass the bill on their own, they don’t have enough senators to “meet the quorum required to conduct official business.”

Hillary Borrud and Chris Lehman at The Oregonian reported yesterday:

When Republicans failed to show up on the Senate floor for an 11 a.m. session, Senate President Peter Courtney of Salem asked the sergeant at arms to search the Capitol for the missing lawmakers. That search proved fruitless.

In response to the walkout, Senate President Peter Courtney formally requested Democratic Gov. Kate Brown to dispatch Oregon State Police troopers to round up the missing Republican Senators.

Brown quickly granted that request. “It is absolutely unacceptable that the Senate Republicans would turn their back on their constituents who they are honor-bound to represent here in this building,” she said in a statement. “They need to return and do the jobs they were elected to do.”

Oregon police are authorized to return the senators to the capitol to carry on with official business but lack sufficient jurisdiction to do so beyond their state boundary lines. After the order was authorized by Gov. Brown, tensions in the state GOP flared. Borrud further reported that Oregon Sen. Brian Boquist suggested “he would shoot and potentially kill any state trooper sent to haul him unwillingly back to the Capitol.” Boquist told reporters that the government should “send bachelors and come heavily armed” if police attempt to bring him back to the legislative chambers for a vote.

On Facebook, Paul Luhrs of Oregon’s Three Percenter chapter promised that Three Percenters would “provide security, transportation and refuge for those Senators in need.” Last night, a Facebook page for the Oregon Three Percenters wrote that the group had become aware that “nearly all Senators are currently safe outside of the state,” suggesting the groups were in communication with at least some of the Republican senators.

Members of the loosely-organized Three Percenter movement are a staple at Patriot movement standoffs. In April 2014, Three Percenters participated in the Bundy Ranch standoff. As Political Research Associates pointed out in 2016, many Three Percenters members and followers have been arrested in connection to violent crimes and murders. Last year, members of Georgia’s Three Percenters chapter threatened violence if Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams had won her election.

Anti-government groups in Oregon have been clamoring about a potential “civil war” for years, as Right Wing Watch documented in 2016. That year, anti-government groups took over a federal wildlife refuge building and instigated an armed standoff with authorities.