For passengers riding a Portland light-rail train, their Friday turned horrifyingly violent as a white supremacist allegedly killed two men defending Muslim women, stabbing the men as they attempted to intervene. Romper has reached out to the Portland Police Bureau for comment on the matter and has not heard back at this time. For many, the incident is a terrifying reminder of the rampant Islamophobia that exists in our country, and the detrimental ideologies that inform such prejudice.
A witness shared with police that the suspect was shouting slurs that "would best be characterized as hate speech toward a variety of ethnicities and religions," which they believed were directed toward women on the train, described by police as "possibly Muslim," for "one was described as wearing a hijab." Portland Police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson shared a news conference: “It appears preliminarily that the victims — at least a couple of them — were trying to intervene in his behavior, deescalate him and protect some other people on the train when [the suspect] viciously attacked them." The suspect then allegedly stabbed three victims and fled the train. Two victims died as a result and one was injured. The two women left before the police arrived and haven't been identified, though police are still seeking their testimonies.
The suspect, 35-year-old Jeremy Christian, is a known white supremacist, a local paper observes. The so-called "right wing extremist" attended the "March For Free Speech" at the end of April, where he was recorded threatening protestors with a baseball bat (which Portland police later confiscated). He also was also observed yelling racial slurs and was photographed giving the Nazi salute. Christian's Facebook shows multiple manifestos promoting his extreme views.
And yet, for whatever reason, Christian's pattern of behavior has not been labeled "terrorist" in its nature. Though there is written, video, and photographic evidence of his white supremacist views, the Portland incident is largely being treated like a rogue stabbing as opposed to a premeditated attack, fed by a building up of hateful ideology.
Currently being held without bail, Christian has been booked on charges of Aggravated Murder (two counts), Attempted Murder, Intimidation in the Second Degree (two counts), and Felon in Possession of a Restricted Weapon. His criminal record boasts multiple felonies, including convictions for first-degree robbery, second-degree kidnapping, and carrying/using a dangerous weapon.
Many are calling upon the president to condemn the behavior, as Council on American-Islamic Relations National Executive Director Nihad Awad insisted:
The tragedy resulting from this stabbing is further evidence that Muslim communities need protection, and the wave of Islamophobia should be addressed and, ultimately, stopped. Should the witnesses accounts hold true, this act was absolutely one of domestic terrorism, extending way beyond hate crime to something terribly violent.