Police in Portland, Oregon launched a homicide investigation following the shooting death of a man who was wearing a hat with the logo for Patriot Prayer, a far-right group based in the area, The Washington Post reports. The shooting took place in Portland on Saturday night (August 29) amid multiple confrontations between a 600-vehicle parade of Trump supporters and large groups of protesters marching against racial injustice and police brutality. All of this comes as watchdog groups warn against a sharp increase in vigilante group activity across the country, according to CNN.
Reports The Post:
Occurring in the aftermath of back-to-back political conventions, and following racial upheaval in Kenosha, Wis., that left two protesters dead, the armed hostilities signaled how political strife is manifesting itself in violence and further scarring this country as it moves toward the fall’s presidential contest.
According to The Post, although officers are investigating the shooting as a homicide, they warn that details of the case are still unclear.
Police did not release information about a potential suspect or the victim, though it appeared from videos of the scene that they were on opposite ends of the skirmishes—the victim allied with the pro-Trump rally and the shooter congregating with Black Lives Matter counterprotesters before opening fire.
The racial reckoning and political unrest gripping the country has led to a worrisome trend, according to law enforcement and hate group watchers, CNN reports. "Driven by a patchwork of ideologies and enflamed by the Trump administration’s often misleading messaging on far-left agitators, analysts say, [vigilante] groups are fueling concern…that they could be the cause of more violence," according to CNN. Vigilante militias are also on "shaky constitutional ground," according to legal experts who spoke to CNN, because they tend to embrace high powered weapons, but don’t often have the training to use them.
"Law enforcement officers go through months of training in the use of force, de-escalation of force, defensive tactics, and the use of a firearm to defend themselves and the citizens they are sworn to protect," Thomas O’Connor, a retired FBI special agent, told CNN. "A civilian with a firearm on the street during a volatile situation may have the legal right to have that weapon, but that does not always mean it is the wise decision."
Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth held a press conference Wednesday (August 26) following the arrest of 17-year old vigilante Kyle Rittenhouse, charged with multiple counts of homicide after shooting three people and killing two during protests calling for justice for Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. "Part of the problem with this group is they create confrontation," CNN reports Beth saying at the news conference. "If I put out my wife with an AR-15 or my brother with a shotgun or whatever it would be walking through the streets, you guys would wonder what the heck is going on. That doesn’t help us."
"It’s the logical end of a years’ long path that we’ve been on of normalizing the idea that vigilante justice is not just justifiable but is necessary," Howard Graves, a senior research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told CNN. "It’s not an accident that this resulted in death—that is what’s going to happen based on what these groups envision themselves doing."