Current News

/

ArcaMax

Far-right groups, feeling support from Trump, find fertile recruiting ground in the Northwest

By Richard Read, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

SANDY, Ore. - The son of Polish immigrants who fled World War II, Andrew Jerzy grew up in a family of Democrats in Southern California amid the cultural and political upheavals of the 1960s.

Taking a different path from many in his generation, he became a staunch conservative - voting Republican, tuning in to Rush Limbaugh and advocating gun rights. He kept his views to himself. A construction contractor in Sandy, east of Portland, the liberal home of many of his customers, he knew his politics could be bad for business.

This summer, however, he began attending rallies and caravans in support of President Donald Trump and the police - activism that put him in the close company of organizations such as the Proud Boys that have ties to white supremacists and advocate taking up arms against the far left.

Newcomers to the pro-Trump, "back the blue" demonstrations say they're motivated by disgust with violence at social justice protests that have raged in Portland since the May 25 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The fatal shooting of a far-right supporter and the police killing of an anti-fascist suspected in his death cast Oregon as an extreme version of the country's polarization in the final weeks leading to the election.

Trump on Tuesday again refused to condemn white supremacists and nationalist groups. When asked during his debate with Joe Biden to disavow the Proud Boys, an organization with an ardent following in Oregon, the president said the group should "stand back and stand by." The group's leadership regarded the comments, which Trump sought to walk back Wednesday, as an endorsement similar to the one he gave white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.

The unrest roiling Portland and other cities this year has been a powerful recruiting tool for organizations such as the Proud Boys, Patriot Prayer and the Three Percenters. Patriot Prayer is led by Joey Gibson, a Washington state resident who faces a felony riot charge for brawling with antifa activists in Portland last year and who was recently photographed with a former Ku Klux Klan member.

 

The allure of the far right is not as blunt as its slogans. People such as Jerzy who show up at rallies aren't draped in camo and AR-15s. They say they don't condone violence or racism but want to resist a troubling liberal, anti-American tide. They are at once angry and disillusioned, feeling their voices are often drowned out amid the nation's changing demographics and identity politics.

Jerzy, 66, who spoke on the condition that he be identified by his middle name to protect his business, embraces the American dream his father sought and sees Black Lives Matter as a Marxist organization.

A staunch supporter of the Second Amendment, Jerzy carries a concealed handgun and wishes Portland would crack down on demonstrators he regards as entitled kids wreaking havoc. He said he's not a racist and has no qualms about standing in solidarity with Patriot Prayer.

"They call them an ultra-right group but they're not - they're a Christian group that believes in God, family and being a patriot," he said.

...continued

swipe to next page
(c)2020 Los Angeles Times, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.