HB2020, Truckers, and Oregon’s Militia: A timeline of recent events

In Summer 2019, around an environmental bill at the Oregon State House, threats of militia involvement at the State House forced a closure of the session and numerous news articles to boot. So how did this all happen?

In Summer 2019, around an environmental bill at the Oregon State House, threats of militia involvement at the State House forced a closure of the session and numerous news articles to boot. So how did this all happen?

This last week, I talked with Jake Hanrahan on the Popular Front podcast about some recent happenings in Oregon. It’s available on the podcast’s Patreon for subscribers, which can be found here. For those who listened to the podcast, this is intended to be a supplement. For those not subscribed, I wanted to provide a quick timeline for the public.

The Context

This all begins with a cap-and-trade bill at the Oregon state legislature. This bill, HB2020, sought to put into place some policy to deal with impending climate crisis. Cap-and-trade bills are a fairly conservative way of trying to address emissions, setting up market exchanges for businesses to trade legal emissions allowances. These exchanges operate on the theory of supply and demand as a way to incentivize lowered emissions. The “cap” part of the name is just a firm limit on greenhouse gas emissions accompanying the policy, usually lowering over time. The approach is by no means socialist or leftist, and should be considered a ‘market solution’ to a more structural problem.

The bill, seen by many conservatives as something that would affect Oregon businesses, encouraged 11 Oregon Senators to flee the state. They did this to keep the bill from finding quorum in the House, essentially canceling the bill for this session and forcing the process to return again next session. On June 20th, Oregon Governor Kate Brown (a Democrat) authorized Oregon State Police to bring these lawmakers back. The police said they would try to engage in “polite communication with these Senators” to bring them back, but Republican Senator Brian Boquist said he would shoot any police who came to bring him back to Oregon: “send bachelors and come heavily armed… I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon.”

This, in turn, led to state-wide and even nation-wide news about this event, particularly because of the threat of violence from an elected official.

Oregon III% (ORIII) responded to this, saying they would “provide security, transportation, and refuge for those senators in need”. ORIII was at the militia occupation of the Malheur Bureau of Land Management and have been written about in MilitiaWatch previously.

Most militias were, however, under a media blackout because they were certain that the media would misrepresent them. This was because of the response to the ORIII press release, which got the group and its leaders quite a lot of media attention, particularly from liberal outlets.

Eric Parker, president of the “Real Three Percenters Idaho” and known for pointing his rifle at federal agents at the Bundy standoff, said senators had been in touch with him, but there’s no way to verify if this is true. Stewart Rhodes, founder and head of the OathKeepers, also offered his opinions on the situation. He referred to HB2020 as “basically the Green New Deal”, a “draconian democratic socialist initiative”, and “Marxist”. In the same broadcast, Rhodes also lamented that rural people in his state of Montana have no hope because the Left killed their jobs.

Bj Soper, at one point leading Central Oregon Constitutional Guard (COCG) and also written about in the earlier MilitiaWatch article on the Pacific Patriots Network (PPN), has offered his views on the situation, too. Over this period, he often complained about articles citing “credible threats” of militia violence. He was also an organizer of a militia Facebook event scheduled for June 22. This event was titled “Rally to the capitol!” and included Senator Boquist’s ‘bachelors’ quote.

This event spawned a lot of new media about militias not only offering to help runaway senators but also threatening to rally at the capital.

Joseph Rice, the leader of the Oathkeepers/Liberty Watch of Josephine County (JoCo) mentioned in the PPN article linked above, was also irked by the reporting and government response. He is still in contact with Soper all these years after Malheur.

This new media storm spooked the state government, and they closed ahead of the rally at the capital. The Oregon GOP Twitter account started sarcastically tweeting about these fears, sharing photos from a previous protest at the capital as if it was the same protest as this militia-organized one.

It wasn’t the same event and the OR GOP later said this was “a joke”.

Ditching the State Senate to oppose a bill isn’t a new tactic, and Democrats have done it in Wisconsin and Texas (over anti-union bills and a ridiculously-partisan gerrymandering proposal). Even Oregon Governor Kate Brown was supportive of a 2001 Oregon walkout by Democrats over a similar hyper-partisan gerrymandering bill. During these flights, though, the Democrats mostly posted a bunch of awkward videos of themselves in hotel lobbies. They most certainly didn’t threaten to shoot back and didn’t attract militia involvement.

The Truckers

Those involved in the timber industry, especially truckers who work for the sector, have been extremely worried about HB2020. They’ve been protesting in Oregon for a while over the bill, but the June 20th protest of theirs is the one oft-confused with the militia rally scheduled for June 22nd.

They created a Facebook group to oppose the bill, called “#timberunity”. Members are from all over the state, but the highest number of members are from Douglas County.

After a lot of this drama, militia folks in the Pacific Northwest were trying to insert themselves into the #timberunity movement, to varying degrees of success. A number of the louder militia voices were either banned from posting in the #timberunity page or removed from the group for constantly talking about militia things in the group.

To try to bring the #timberunity movement into their fold, the militia folks created another Facebook event dated June 27–30 called “Rally to take back Oregon”. Almost immediately upon the creation of this event, Bj Soper asked in the event page if it would be a militia-friendly event. The organizer, John Parker Jr., replied “everyone welcome” and another commenter with an ORIII logo in his profile picture replied, “in fact I’d say make sure they are there”.

Parker, in replies to comments and in his own posts in the event page, often referred to the militia as the “Patriot Community”. When he was removed from the #timberunity Facebook group in one of their purges, he lamented that “The Patriot community needs to be embraced, not sat in a corner.” He often reposts Bj Soper’s posts on his own Facebook page, too. J.D. Parks, another person who was often shared by John Parker, Jr., was also banned from #timberunity for posting a bunch of pro-militia stuff.

Numerous posts about militias littered the #timberunity Facebook group for weeks as this was all being worked out. As is often the case, when facing criticism, many militia members reminded other posters that they “are your neighbors”.

Timber Unity

The event organized by Parker was ultimately largely sidelined by a larger trucker rally after #timberunity response showed that militia involvement was largely unpopular. However, this didn’t stop John Parker Jr. from worrying about “ANTIFA type terrorists” who were going to “interrupt our BBQ” at the weekend rally. No counter-protesters showed to meet the protesting truckers with force.

The trucker/logger rally on the 27th happened with no incidents. The rally was called a “million dollar peaceful rally” by many participants, with truckers parking near the Capitol while others drove around town. It was a decently-sized rally for Oregon, but it certainly wasn’t a militia rally despite militia threats. In response to the rally, JD Parks said that people being polite was “a problem in itself”.

Less than a week after the rally, two organizers of the #timberunity group were invited by Trump to DC to hear his remarks on the environment.

The #timberunity page is now promoting branded products for sale and encouraging people to donate to its political action committee. Despite losing the battle against HB2020, there’s a lot of interesting stuff still happening for the page.

Militias and Truckers

It isn’t unusual for truckers and militias to work together. For example, the PPN folks utilized a logistics network comprised mostly of truckers. This was known as the Patriot Supply Railroad (PSR), and often involved several truckers timing their own routes in order to hand off supplies for the Malheur occupation. Some of the disaster relief done by militias in the wake of Hurricane Harvey also used truckers for delivery of items to their areas of support. Even the III%SF was trying to figure out a way to work truckers into their own coming November 9 rally in DC.

A timeline of events

Keep in mind some of these events overflow or continue past one another, but I wanted to give a sense of how things happened over time in Oregon.

Originally posted on Medium on July 14, 2019.

Exported and reposted on August 5, 2020.