We’re about halfway through the Oregon State Legislative session, and many of the bills still in play would be huge wins for climate and social justice. But one bill — HB 2772, otherwise known as the “Domestic Terrorism Bill” — could set the stage for deep injustices against activists and over-policed communities, Black, Indigenous, and other Oregonians of color. As an activist and attorney, I’m deeply concerned that the Domestic Terrorism Bill is rapidly moving through the legislative process; it is currently in the Joint Committee for Ways & Means with bi-partisan support.
We can’t let Oregon pass a bill that would leave the door wide open for the state to wrongfully charge social and environmental justice activists with “domestic terrorism.” Will you join me in calling on our legislators to oppose the Domestic Terrorism Bill (HB 2772)?
Let’s take a step back and explain where HB 2772 is coming from, how it connects to a rise of similar bills around the country that (once passed) are being used to target social and environmental justice movements, and why we are worried about this bill passing here in Oregon.
Last year, the Oregon Secretary of State’s office published a report that Oregon should do more to combat rising domestic violent extremism. The Domestic Terrorism Bill is in large part a response to this report, and the bill’s legislative supporters argue it’s meant to combat far-right extremists specifically. But the report is based in misleading “two-sidesism” arguments, claiming that “between 2011 and 2020, the number of US domestic violence incidents based on ideological orientation between ‘far-right’ and ‘far-left’ was nearly equal.” In reality, the far-right extremists they’re referencing were often committing acts of violence (far-right individuals and groups have been behind over 70% of all extremist killings in the U.S. over the past three decades), whereas the majority of left-wing people who’ve been labeled “terrorists” harmed no one directly. The report also cites incidents of white supremacist violence in the same breath as describing Black Lives Matter protests following George Floyd’s murder, making the implication that these are somehow equivalent.
As the Domestic Terrorism Bill is in response to this misleading report, we have every reason to believe it would be used to target people protesting for social and environmental justice. We only have to look to a recent example in Georgia to know this is a very real possibility. In 2017, Georgia passed a similar bill creating harsher punishments for property crimes, labeling them as acts of “terrorism.” Like in Oregon, Georgia legislators proposed this bill as a response to acts of white supremacist violence. But this past February, Atlanta police used the law to charge 42 peaceful protesters in the Stop Cop City movement with domestic terrorism, and now those protesters are facing 35 years in prison. None of the arrest warrants tie the protesters directly to illegal acts (laughably, police cite them having mud on their shoes as probable cause), but Georgia’s domestic terrorism law is expansive enough that police can use it to arrest and hold peaceful protesters with trumped-up charges.
It’s true that Oregon needs to deal with its history of white supremacism and the rise of far-right extremism, but the Domestic Terrorism Bill is not the right way to do that. Police around the country – including in Oregon – already have abundant tools available to them to combat extremist violence, but they often ignore far-right groups. We have only to look to the deep ties between white supremacist groups and police to see why this happens. If Oregon legislators really want to combat white supremacism, they should investigate these ties and hold the police accountable, not pass a law that would make it easier to charge social and environmental justice protesters with “domestic terrorism.”
350PDX has joined civil liberties and justice groups including the Oregon ACLU in calling on our legislators to oppose HB 2772 (read the full letter here), and we are asking you to join us.
The fact that this bill has made it all the way to the Joint Committee on Ways & Means is troubling enough, but it’s a huge red flag that there’s been so little opportunity for community members to voice their concerns. Public process on the bill has been minimal, and has mostly left out the voices of Oregonians who are already disproportionately impacted by over-policing, including Black and Indigenous people, People of Color, and houseless individuals.
Still, it’s not too late to call on our legislators to oppose the Domestic Terrorism bill – so join us in taking action today!
Brenna Bell, 350PDX Forest Climate Manager