Why Portland? The City's History of Protest Takes an Exceptional Turn

Historians in the News
tags: racism, Oregon, White Supremacy, Portland, Protest, Pacific Northwest


"Our informal motto is Keep Portland Weird, so we like people who aren't sort of mainstream folks," said Randy Blazak, a former professor at Portland State University. "And that has allowed a lot of room on the margins, including the political margins."

But he says the "Portlandia" image -- of 1990s slackers driven by liberal ingenuity -- isn't entirely true to the city's history.

"We have communists and anarchists and we also have neo-Nazis and fascists," said Blazak, who also chairs the Oregon Coalition Against Hate Crimes. He says the region is also home to several militia and anti-government groups.

That petri dish of extremes has made Portland a hotbed for protest. Its predominantly White population, nearly 80%, also makes it attractive to White supremacists who see the city as fertile ground for an all-White ethnostate.

"It starts with the Oregon trail, when the land that was given was to White settlers only," Blazak said. "It was a state that would remind us of being in the deep South except it was in the Pacific Northwest."


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