“Send bachelors and come heavily armed. I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon. It’s just that simple.”
This is the statement from Brian Boquist, one of the 12 Oregon Republican lawmakers in hiding. The Republican Senators left to deny the Democrat-controlled state senate a quorum to pass a cap-and-trade (climate control) bill. Several of those in hiding have left for Idaho.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown (D), has sent state troopers to bring them back, citing a provision of the state constitution which allows the state to ‘compel’ absent lawmakers to attend legislative sessions. Boquist warned that he was not going to go voluntarily.
Enter: militia groups from the Pacific Northwest. Several of them are mobilizing to prevent the state police from arresting the senators.
“We’re doing what we can to make sure that they’re safe and comfortable,” said Eric Parker, the president of militia group Real Three Percenters Idaho, adding that the Idaho militias are in touch with their Oregon counterparts about the senators.
According to Fox News, the Oregon state Senate closed Saturday after a “possible militia threat” from a right-wing group — amid a broader drama over a walkout by Republican lawmakers over looming climate change legislation.
‘Right-wing’ groups posted their support for the rebel Republicans on Friday, including one group — the Oregon Three Percenters — who joined in an armed takeover of a wildlife refuge in 2016.
In a Facebook post, Paul Luhrs, a member of the Oregon III%er militia, said the militia had “vowed to provide security, transportation and refuge for those Senators in need.” “We will stand together with unwavering resolve, doing whatever it takes to keep these Senators safe,” Luhrs wrote.
Oregon state police recommended that the Capitol be closed on Saturday due to a possible militia threat. In a statement Oregon State Police, they have been “monitoring information throughout the day that indicates the safety of legislators, staff and citizen visitors could be compromised if certain threatened behaviors were realized.”
Fox further reported that Republicans and anti-government groups were planning on protesting on Saturday before the closing of the Senate was announced.
Governor Brown said in a statement:
“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. They need to return and do the jobs they were elected to do.”
Republicans were quick to respond:
“Protesting cap-and-trade by walking out today represents our constituency and exactly how we should be doing our job,” Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr., of Grants Pass, said.
He made comments in a statement Thursday.
“We have endured threats of arrest, fines and pulling community project funds from the governor, Senate president and majority leader. We will not stand by and be bullied by the majority party any longer.”
Keep in mind, this is not the first time in recent history that state legislators fled their states to deny a quorum for their rivals. In 2003, Texas Democrats left the state to avoid a vote on redistricting. In 2011, Democrats left Wisconsin in protest Republican’s attempt to cut union rights.
The difference between those two instances and Oregon: militia involvement.
Despite the offers for protection, it is unclear if any of the Oregon senators are actually in contact with militia members. This did not stop The Daily Beast from proclaiming that the Senators are teaming up with right wing militias, trying to equate conservatives with extreme right-wing ideology.
One must question Governor Brown’s decision to use the state police to round up the Republican legislators.
You must also question the militias that are pledging to stand between the police and the lawmakers.
Do Governor Brown’s actions border on tyranny? How does the militia legitimize impeding with and hindering law enforcement that is acting in accordance with current state law? Where is the line drawn between constitutional protection and law enforcement capabilities to carry out their duties as sworn officers?
No matter where you stand on the topic of tyranny and militias, we can only hope that this situation is resolved peacefully.