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Nobody’s laughing at the Oregon GOP’s idea of a joke.
On Saturday, the party’s official Twitter account tweeted out a picture of protesters and wrote that a “heavily armed militia” was laying siege to the state capital as “Senate Democrats cower in fear.”
There was just one problem with the photo: It was not, as they implied, of people who were “armed” or part of a “militia.” The picture wasn’t even taken that day.
Rather, as many people quickly pointed out, it was a photo from a protest the previous Wednesday of a controversial “cap-and-trade” bill state Democrats have proposed to reduce Oregon’s carbon emissions over the next 31 years.
But, it’s OK per the Oregon GOP, because it’s just jokes.
Not so much, was the general consensus on social media. Unlike the Oregon GOP, most folks don’t seem to think violence is hilarious.
Prominent critics included Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jamie was killed in the Parkland school shooting. Guttenberg tweeted, “Oregon GOP, what a pathetic and miserable group you are. You run off into hiding to avoid doing your job and then threaten gun violence against the police for saying they will uphold the law. My daughter was a victim of gun violence. There is nothing funny about it.“
WTF is wrong with you?— John Weaver (@jwgop) June 23, 2019
Ah, I see. This was supposed to be "funny." Haaaaaave you considered... being funny?— Brooke Binkowski (@brooklynmarie) June 23, 2019
The hullabaloo was kicked into high gear last week when 11 Oregon Senate Republicans, rather representing the more than 1.5 million Oregonians who live in their districts, fled the state capital to prevent the quorum necessary to vote on the cap-and-trade bill.
In response, Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, citing state constitutional law that allows lawmakers to be compelled to return to work, threatened to send state police after the wayward lawmakers.
On his way out the door, Republican state Senator Brian Boquist gave an interview to a local television station in which he threatened police who heeded the governor’s command.
“Send bachelors and come heavily armed,” he said. “I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon. It’s just that simple.”
Among those vowing to keep their precious Republican lawmakers safe from the long arm from the law were militant groups with far-right affiliations.
The Oath Keepers reportedly threatened violence against Gov. Brown if she sent police after the absent eleven.
The Three Percenters promised to do “whatever it takes to keep these senators safe,” Huffington Post reported.
In recent years, people affiliated with Three Percenter organizations have been arrested for bombing a mosque and planning to bomb a bank; in 2016 the group popped up in Oregon to support Ammom Bundy’s armed occupation of a wildlife refuge.
The Oath Keepers came into semi-prominence in 2015 when five white dudes carrying assault rifles showed up uninvited during the Ferguson, Missouri, protests of the police killing of Michael Brown a year prior. According to the local NPR affiliate, the men identified themselves as Oath Keepers and claimed they were there to keep the peace.
In spite of no one but themselves thinking it was particularly funny to threaten lawmakers with violence, the Oregon GOP was not to be deterred from cracking jokes.
There was just one problem with the tweet: Oregon Democrats did show up for work that day. The Oregon GOP, however, is still in hiding.
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Claire Goforth is a Jacksonville, Florida-based journalist covering politics, culture, justice, and unicorns. Her work has appeared in publications ranging from regional alt-weeklies to Al Jazeera.