In Oregon, Republican state senators are so adamantly opposed to global warming legislation that they’ve fled the state and are joining up with a far-right paramilitary group.
One state senator even threatened to kill Oregon State Police (OSP) officers who tried to bring him in.
The issue of contention is legislation that would implement a so-called “cap and trade” system in Oregon, in which carbon emissions are “capped,” and any company that wishes to emit more than their CO2 limit must purchase emission credits from the state. The legislation is aimed at financially incentivizing corporations to emit less carbon as a means of addressing global warming.
Because Democrats have a majority in both the House and Senate, as well as a Democratic governor (also known as a trifecta), the Democratic-sponsored bill is likely to pass. Republicans fled the state as a last-resort measure to prevent the state senate from having a quorum necessary to vote on legislation. Meanwhile, Oregon Governor Kate Brown (D) has dispatched the OSP to find the missing senators and bring them back to the capitol in order to do their jobs. She is also fining each senator $500 per day for each day they miss.
One Oregon Republican implied that state troopers who come to arrest him shouldn’t have families, since their lives will be at risk.
“I’m quotable, so here’s the quote. This is what I told the [OSP] superintendent. Send bachelors, and come heavily armed,” said state senator Brian Boquist (R).
Boquist, according to The Oregonian, is a U.S. military veteran who once operated a paramilitary company made up of former American and Russian ex-military personnel.
Oregon state senator @BrianBoquistGOP said if R's walk out to stop a vote on Cap and Trade and @OregonGovBrown sends state police to bring him back, they should be single and well armed. Your take? pic.twitter.com/Fcu8NXXl8h
— Pat Dooris (@PatDooris) June 19, 2019
The senators aren’t alone, according to a member of the Oregon 3 Percenters (OR III%). The III% is a paramilitary group named after the claim that only 3% of colonists took up arms against the British government in the Revolutionary War. Paul Luhrs, who identified as the “Linn County Lead” for the OR III% on his Facebook profile, confirmed that members of his group were providing “security, transportation, and refuge for those Senators in need.”
“It has come to our knowledge that nearly all Senators are currently safe in Idaho with no chance of extradition,” Luhrs wrote. “We will stand together with unwavering resolve, doing whatever it takes to keep these Senators safe.”
According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, The III% paramilitary group has numerous ties to Islamophobic and white supremacist movements. The leader of a III% group in Illinois was arrested in 2018 for trying to bomb a mosque in Minnesota. III% groups were also present at the fatal “Unite the Right” hate rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and armed paramilitary members were seen forming a perimeter around neo-Nazis and Klansmen during the march.
— Hampton Stall (@HamptonStall) August 14, 2017
In response to the threat from Sen. Boquist, the OSP issued a statement reiterating that while it would seek a peaceful means of bringing in the absent Republican state senators, it had “many tools at our disposal.”
“Oregon State Police serves the Governor in her elected role as leader of Oregon’s Executive Branch of government, and she has now given a lawful directive which OSP is fully committed to executing,” an OSP statement read. “OSP is utilizing established relationships to have polite communication with these Senators. While we obviously have many tools at our disposal, patience and communication is and always will be our first, and preferred, option.”
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.