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Politics & Government

Jackson County Sheriff Discourages Political Violence Following Election

Dave Blanchard / OPB
An armed man with a group called the Pacific Patriots Network. The network arrived in Harney County in early 2016, claiming to secure the scene of the occupation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Some elected officials and community leaders in Oregon are expressing concern about the potential for violent protests or political unrest after Tuesday’s election.

Last week, elected officials including Gov. Brown, more than a dozen state legislators, and union and community leaders signed an open letter condemning political violence after the election, in particular from alt-right and paramilitary groups.

“Paramilitary and alt-right activity is a challenge to our values of inclusive democracy in Oregon. These groups use threats, intimidation and even violence to chill democratic practice, threaten community safety and undermine civil society,” the letter states, which was published by the Western States Center, a Portland-based social justice organization.

Jackson County Sheriff Nate Sickler says he’s asking residents of the Rogue Valley to be respectful of each other and come together after a year of devastating fires and the pandemic. And he’s discouraging any political violence from private militias.

“We don’t really have room for that,” Sickler says. “We have an election process that people decide and every four years someone is disappointed about election results and somebody is pleased. That’s just how it works in a democracy.”

Oregon has a history of militia activity and the ingredients for future unrest, according to a recent report from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, which tracks unrest around the world.

Their report titled “Standing By: Right Wing Militia Groups And The US Election” determined that Oregon was among the top five states “at highest risk of increased militia activity in the election and post-election period.”

In Jackson County, Sickler says his department has contingency plans for potential protests and violence after the election and that they’re able to share those resources with neighboring agencies that need help.

So far, he says, they have no knowledge of any activities being planned by individuals or groups.

“Extreme actions such as that [aren’t] really going to help the country move forward in a positive direction,” he says. “I would just ask for people to be calm and be peaceful and respect one another.”