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Law and Justice

Oregon Capitol Quiet, Despite Arrival Of Armed Demonstrators

A small group of demonstrators are gathered outside of the Oregon State Capitol in Salem, Ore., Jan. 17, 2021.
A small group of demonstrators are gathered outside of the Oregon State Capitol in Salem, Ore., Jan. 17, 2021.

The capitol in Salem was on guard for violence in the run-up to Tuesday's presidential inauguration, but on Sunday, only handful of armed demonstrators showed up.

Despite the presence of a small group of armed demonstrators Sunday, the day was playing out much like Saturday did: with relative quiet at the Oregon State Capitol.

In Salem, much like in state capitals across the United States, law enforcement and the National Guard were prepared to step in should violent demonstrations break out.

The FBI had urged statehouses to be on high alert, following the deadly insurrection Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol and several violent or unruly outbursts at state capitols, including in Salem and Olympia, Washington, in recent weeks.

The possibility of mob violence perpetrated by extremists aligned with outgoing President Donald Trump prompted the Oregon Legislature to delay the convening of its upcoming session that was to begin Tuesday.

This weekend the Oregon Capitol had the appearance of a government building in a war-torn part of the world, with plywood-boarded windows, concrete barriers and entrance-blocking chain link fencing.

Saturday the Capitol drew only a small handful of sign-waving or slogan-yelling individuals. But on Sunday morning a small gathering of people — numbering fewer than a dozen — had assembled, including several who were armed with rifles and handguns.

They identified themselves as members of the extremist “boogaloos” movement, which is known for its advocacy of violent civil war against the government and for wearing Hawaiian shirts. (“We just misplaced the florals is all,” one of them said to explain their all-black, camouflage or military-drab attire.)

They insisted they were not there to express support for Trump or for his supporters’ efforts to overturn his electoral loss to Biden. One carried a sign reading “F*ck Trump F*ck Biden.”

A demonstrator who identified himself as “Brushfire” said they came out “to show the government that the boogaloos are out here and that we’re a real thing.” The man, who wore a black ski mask to hide his identity, said they also wanted to demonstrate for gun rights and other concerns.

At one point, two counter-protesters verbally confronted the self-described boogaloos, challenging their decision to bring guns to the Capitol grounds. It ended without incident.

By early afternoon the armed men were still milling about and posing for photos as close to the Capitol as the chain-link fencing and concrete barriers permitted.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting