Why Portland Is So ‘Antifa’

Oregon’s history of radical resistance is directly linked to its racist roots

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photo: Oregon Historical Society
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Map of ‘sundown towns.’ Source: @MorganJerkins
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A Ku Klux Klan parade, Ashland, OR. (photo: Oregon Historical Society)

The history of radical activism in the Pacific Northwest — individuals who identify as antifascists, and who have formed grassroots organizations to protect their communities against racist attacks — must be understood in the context of the persistent influence of white nationalism in the region.

A 2017 exhibition at the Henry Art Gallery titled no. NOT EVER. featured interviews with many individuals from rural communities in the Pacific Northwest who have attempted to build a counterculture of resistance in white nationalist strongholds. (I wrote about this exhibition for The Stranger.) It was through this show that I learned about the Northwest Territorial Imperative and also became familiarized with some of the working-class antifascist work that has been done in these rural communities for decades. “Many organizers do not know how to say NO to white nationalist claims for free speech rights,” said one of the information cards presented in the exhibition. “White nationalists are acutely aware of this and use ‘free speech’ as an effective strategy to test a space to see how hospitable it is for their recruitment and organizing.”

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One strategy of far-right organizing is to appeal to a liberal sense of freedom.
^ This entire thread by a Portlander is worth a read.

Artist and historian. PhD student researching religion, material culture, media, and politics. Bylines at The Wire Magazine, Art in America + more.

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