Concerns about Oregon House Bill 2572
Rep. Khanh Pham,
I am a constituent and supporter writing you because I have questions about HB 2572. I note that you are a co-sponsor for this bill, and I am hoping you can assuage my concerns about how this bill might end up being actually applied if it were to become law.
My concerns are probably most readily expressed through a painfully salient and recent example. We are approaching the one year anniversary of the Normandale Park mass shooting. A local right wing nut job shot five completely unarmed, peaceful protestors. One of them died at the scene. More would have been shot and potentially murdered had the shooter not been stopped by an organized group of defenders attending to the security of the protest, one of them shooting and disabling the attacker. The murderer is still being held on charges. The defender was released without being charged.
While I empathize with the ambition to better tools to stop these groups that are organized to try to interfere with everything from legislative procedure to library story times, I can’t help but notice how readily the armed, trained defenders in the Normandale Park attack would be vulnerable to being charged under HB 2572. They are not a DPSTT certified security firm, but a group of volunteers organized to tend to the security of a group of people that law enforcement, at best, ignores. These community defenders train together and coordinate their movements in public during these protests. Does that qualify as activity that “interferes with or intimidates another person,” as described in 2572? Is it up to the police to decide if they’re interfering or intimidating? If instead of attacking those five people the killer had simply declared that he felt intimidated, would the defenders be vulnerable to being charged under 2572?
And as always, even if laws are designed with greater care than I see in 2572, we are still relying on broken, corrupt police to enforce it (or not) at their discretion. Just last week, officer Kammerer of the PPB was reinstated to the force after fully acknowledging that he had leaked fake news about Commissioner Hardesty to media outlets specifically because he wanted to damage her reputation. Though he’s now retired, former officer Kruger, after creating a public monument to literal Nazi SS figures, managed to get his record wiped clean and then promoted to a captain by taking advantage of our completely broken police accountability measures. This same police force shut down an entire city bridge to give Proud Boys secure, escorted passage when their efforts to intimidate and interfere were overwhelmed by counter-protestors. Do you think with HB 2572 in place the police would have arrested them instead? Or would the police have arrested the counter-demonstrators for interfering? These are the people who you’re asking to be entrusted with further powers to apply their personal discretion to decide whether or not a freely assembled group is being intimidating.
Thank you for representing our community and taking the time to hear our concerns. While I appreciate and share in the ambition to curb the dangerous paramilitary activity we see plaguing our state and nation, HB 2572 as it stands looks like a bad way to try to accomplish that. I would rather see you use my vote to lobby for actual accountability and reform for our police. While stronger anti-paramilitary laws might be helpful and necessary to tamp down on insurgent activity, they will only be applied unjustly without police reform and accountability being in place first.