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New Remedy Proposed in Hotbed of Violent Extremism

Over the past decade, Oregon experienced the sixth-highest number of extremist incidents in the nation, despite being 27th in population, according to an Oregon Secretary of State report. Now, the state Legislature is considering a bill that would create the nation’s most comprehensive law against paramilitary activity, reports Associated Press. It would provide citizens and the state attorney general with civil remedies in court if armed members of a private paramilitary group interfere with, or intimidate, another person who is engaging in an activity they have a legal right to do, such as voting. All 50 states prohibit private paramilitary organizations and activity, but no other law creates civil remedies, said Mary McCord, an expert on terrorism and domestic extremism who helped craft the bill. The Oregon bill is also unique because it would allow people injured by private, unauthorized paramilitary activity to sue, she said.

The pioneering measure raises a host of issues that lawmakers tried to parse in a House Judiciary Committee hearing last week, including: If residents are afraid to go to a park with their children while an armed militia group is present, could they later sue the group? What constitutes a paramilitary group? What is defined as being armed? The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Dacia Grayber, a Democrat from suburban Portland, said the proposed reforms “would make it harder for private paramilitaries to operate with impunity throughout Oregon, regardless of their ideology.” However, dozens of conservative Oregonians have expressed suspicion that the Democrat-controlled Legislature aims to pass a bill restricting the right to assemble and that the legislation would target right-wing armed groups like the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer, but not black-clad anarchists who have vandalized downtown Portland and battled police. Oregon Department of Justice attorney Carson Whitehead said the proposed law would not sanction a person for openly carrying firearms, which is legally protected, but if a paramilitary group went to a park knowing its presence would be intimidating, anyone afraid of also going to the park could sue for damages. “This particular bill is not directed at individuals open-carrying. This is directed at armed, coordinated paramilitary activity,” added McCord, who is the executive director of Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection.


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