A Republican leader in Oregon says the party may use private militias, including groups widely recognized as antigovernment extremists, to protect GOP officials.
The move comes after Friday’s deadly stabbing attack in Portland in which two people were killed and a third injured while defending a Muslim teen from a man shouting anti-Islamic slurs.
James Buchal, chair of the Republican party for Multnomah County, which includes Portland, told The Guardian that GOP figures may need “a security force protecting them” while out in public. When asked if he meant private groups, Buchal told the newspaper, “Yeah. And there are these people arising, like the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters.”
Both groups are on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of active, extremist antigovernment groups and considered as such by the Anti-Defamation League as well.
But Buchal said these groups were under consideration for his “security force” plan.
“Yeah. We’re thinking about that,” Buchal was quoted as saying. “Because there are now belligerent, unstable people who are convinced that Republicans are like Nazis.”
Buchal also denied that the groups were extremists despite their designations, and specifically defended the Three Percenters, saying their website had a “solid commitment to this not being about race at all.”
The Anti-Defamation League said both groups “promote the idea that the federal government is plotting to take away the rights of American citizens and must be resisted.”
Buchal, a lawyer who unsuccessfully ran for office in Oregon several times, defended his militia plan on Twitter after one user likened it to the ill-fated attempt to use Hells Angels as security during a 1969 music festival in California, which led to deadly violence.
“Clever,” Buchal wrote on Twitter. “But I don’t think it is fair to analogize the Hell’s Angels to group organized to defend the Constitution.”
Buchal also used that same Twitter account to push conspiracy theories about Seth Rich, a young Democratic National Committee staffer killed last year in Washington.
In recent months, Portland has been the scene of numerous protests, including some that have turned violent, such as a May Day rally that led to 25 arrests. In the wake of Friday’s deadly attack, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is trying to cancel events sponsored by right-wing groups, including a “Trump Free Speech Rally.”