‘Silent Middle’ Urged to Stand Up After Portland Shooting

Eric Tegethoff | Public News Service
Protests for racial justice have continued every night in Portland for more than three months. Photo Credit: Arturo Hilario

PORTLAND, Ore. — A fatal shooting in Portland over the weekend has left tensions high across the country.

The shooting took place on Saturday after a pro-Trump caravan rolled through the city. The man shot was wearing a shirt and hat identifying the far-right group Patriot Prayer.

Eric Ward is executive director of the Western States Center, which follows extremist groups in the West and is headquartered in Portland. He said our institutions have been unable to respond adequately to the recent violence at protests.

“All of these deaths and injuries are preventable. They are unnecessary,” Ward said. “They are symptomatic of the failure of civil society and democratic structures to rise above the bias and confusion of ‘both-siderism.'”

Ward said the Portland Police Department’s response to months-long protests since the killing of George Floyd in May has exacerbated the situation. Portland police still are investigating Saturday’s shooting.

Ward recalled the outrage in the wake of the Charlottesville rally in 2017, which was organized by far-right groups and where one protester was killed.

“In just the last week, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and here in Portland, Oregon, Charlottesville happened again. But the nation seems less outraged. And that, to me, is dangerous,” he said.

Ward doesn’t believe people care less about this violence than they did after Charlottesville. But he said people who are situated in the political center can’t turn their backs on this moment.

“It’s time for the silent middle in this city to stand up,” he said. “We can no longer just blame paramilitaries or protesters on the streets.”

Ward said city officials need to rein in Portland police and make it clear that Portland won’t be used as a battleground for far-right extremists.