Chair Deborah Kafoury statement on The Guardian newspaper account of armed groups and roadblocks in East Multnomah County

September 17, 2020

Three years ago this week, I stood shoulder to shoulder with Corbett-area residents and the Multnomah County Sheriff, united in our response to the Eagle Creek Fire. In our partnership, I saw the strength of this community and the love people have for the land, their lives and for one another. So I am saddened and outraged that this fire season, when we are all battling to protect our communities and keep our families safe from wildfire and smoke, The Guardian newspaper is reporting that armed groups stopped men, women and children traveling through that community, often as they were fleeing to safety. 

I will absolutely not tolerate vigilantism of any kind in Multnomah County, especially when it further traumatizes people escaping a disaster. Additionally, I am deeply concerned about the reports that the words of some Multnomah County Sheriff’s staff were interpreted by some residents as support or encouragement for roadblocks and vigilante patrols. If that turns out to be true, it is categorically unacceptable. I'm asking the Sheriff to further review these allegations and report back to the Board of County Commissioners on what unfolded. 

But I must also ask — and I urge you to ask —  what has changed in these three years? 

Disinformation, scapegoating and the unfounded fear of others, encouraged and normalized by falsehoods and hate from the White House and amplified on Facebook, is as dangerous as anything we have ever faced. That is why catastrophic fires that brought us together, are now so effectively driving us apart.

Together we survived the Eagle Creek Fire. And the resurgent Columbia River Gorge is testament to our ability to rise. But as Oregonians, and as residents of Multnomah County, we must stamp out this division and hate as forcefully as we do the fire.