Republican congressional candidate Alek Skarlatos criticized his Democratic opponent Rep. Peter DeFazio this week, saying he had remained silent in response to last weekend’s rioting in Eugene.
In a press release Wednesday, Skarlatos alleged that DeFazio has called for defunding the police and said the congressman “has remained silent on the violent mobs which have now found their way to the 4th Congressional District.”
“By ignoring the actions of rioters in his own district, DeFazio is encouraging the destruction of our own communities,” Skarlatos said.
DeFazio has spoken multiple times about a need for police reform in response to the killing of George Floyd, a Black Minneapolis man whose death at the hands of police has sparked months of both peaceful protests and rioting in cities across America. The officer who killed Floyd has been charged with murder.
DeFazio has called for police reforms such as a ban on choke holds like the one that resulted in Floyd’s death, and called for transparency around allegations of misconduct about police, rather than for defunding the police.
Speaking with KEZI in June about his support for the Justice in Policing Act, for example, DeFazio said, “This does not defund the police. It is not anti-policing. It is reforming. It’s going to help both sides in the future. Both our police, who are necessary, and our communities."
On Thursday, DeFazio emailed a statement about the Eugene riots and also mentioned the Portland riots, which he had previously publicly addressed.
“I strongly denounce the actions of a small group of anarchists and other destructive individuals in Portland and Eugene who have used the cover of legitimate lawful Black Lives Matter protests to sow destruction and division,” DeFazio said.
But he also took the federal government to task for its response to weeks of rioting in Portland.
“In Portland, unmarked federal agents have detained Oregonians without cause, without reading people their rights or following due process, and have targeted protestors exercising rights protected under the Constitution. These are the actions of an authoritarian regime, not an open democracy,” DeFazio said.
“I applaud Governor (Kate) Brown’s successful negotiation with the federal government to remove federal agents from Portland and have the local police provide law enforcement for federal buildings,” he said.
Weekend protests at the U.S. Courthouse in Eugene devolved into clashes between Black Lives Matter protesters and All Lives Matter counter-protesters, and ended in violence, property destruction and nine arrests.
Another incident marred by violence took place in the Thurston neighborhood of Springfield Wednesday, where The Register-Guard reported a protest was sparked by a hanged skeleton display in a resident’s yard.
On Thursday, Skarlatos issued yet another press release broadening his attacks to “Left Wing politicians,” saying they had become a “mob squad” enabling rioters. He specifically cited Gov. Brown and Congressmen Jerry Nadler, D-New York, but did not mention DeFazio.
“Violent actors are being egged on by irresponsible politicians who are seeking to use this violence and chaos to their benefit,” Skarlatos said. “This ‘Mob Squad,’ which also fully supports defunding police, needs to be voted out of office and replaced with leaders who will fight and stand by the people of Oregon, not with the Mob.”