National News

Professor: Hate groups have foothold in Oregon; Virginia attack could happen anywhere

Posted August 15

— While many people are shocked by the deadly attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, one local expert says the same hate groups involved have a foothold here in Oregon.

Sociology professor Randy Blazak feels that what happened over the weekend can happen anywhere in the U.S. right now.

Blazak studied neo-Nazis as an undercover recruit in the late 1980s.

"But I never would've thought 30 years later we'd be having this conversation," said Blazak.

The difference? Blazak says members of hate groups existed in the shadows back then and for the last decade, they've been operating mostly online. But now, Blazak feels President Donald Trump's rhetoric emboldens them and invites them into the mainstream.

"Whether he has tried to or not, he certainly has given them a lot of permission. And in their world – which exists primarily online – they are in love with him," Blazak said.

When it comes to protests, he says white supremacists want confrontations with counter protesters.

"Some of that opposition is going to want to be violent and intimidating. If they're wearing masks and dressed in black because then, they look like the victims," said Blazak. "The Alt-Right guys look like the victims, it's going to bring people to their cause because, oh gee, don't they have a free speech right?"

But Blazak thinks peaceful demonstrations like the vigil in Portland on Sunday night will always chip away at white supremacy.

"It's important to come out, but it's important to come out in a way that doesn't help their cause," he said.

So far in 2017, the City of Portland is on track to more than double the number of hate crimes it had in 2016, according to police statistics.

Copyright 2017 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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