'Credible threat' forces Senate to cancel Saturday session
SALEM — A Saturday session of the Oregon Senate was canceled Friday afternoon after Oregon State Police reported a "credible threat from militia groups" planning to meet at the Capitol.
Senators were advised June 21 to avoid the building and have their employees do the same, according to a message sent from the Senate Democratic caucus office Friday and obtained by the Oregon Capital Bureau.
The development comes as the Senate's 11 Republicans remain missing from the Capitol, hoping to pressure legislative leaders into modifying a controversial cap-and-trade legislation that was to have been voted on by the Senate Thursday, June 20.
"IMPORTANT UPDATE: The Senate will NOT be meeting tomorrow (Saturday)," the message read. "The State Police superintendent just informed the Senate president of a credible threat from militia groups coming to the Capitol tomorrow. The superintendent strongly recommends that no one come to the Capitol and President Courtney heeded that advice minutes ago by adjourning until 10 a.m. Sunday. Please make sure your staffs know not to come in tomorrow. We are still planning to come in Sunday."
In an email to the Oregon Capital Bureau, a spokeswoman for Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, said that the Capitol would be closed Saturday "upon recommendation of the state police of possible threats by militia groups."
A spokesman for the Senate Majority Office could not be immediately reached for comment late Friday.
People associated with Oregon militia groups have been active on social media since the Republicans disappeared. Some have called on a defense force to protect the senators from the state police. One militia leader specifically identified a Republican senator as asking for militia help, but that senator denied to the Oregon Capital Bureau making any such a comment.
On June 20, the Oregon III%ers (3 percenters) posted on Facebook a "call to action" for its members across the state to "provide security, transportation and refuge for those Senators in need." The group did not threaten or encourage violence in its Facebook post.
"We will stand together with unwavering resolve, doing whatever it takes to keep these Senators safe," according to the post.
"**CALL TO ACTION**
"Oregon III% leadership has made the decision to support Oregon Republican Senators to walk out," according to the group's post. "In doing so we have vowed to provide security, transportation and refuge for those Senators in need. It has come to our knowledge that nearly all Senators are currently safe outside of the state. Your leads will keep you informed as needed for any further action. Be ready, stay vigilant. Mobilization orders will be issued only by Liaisons or County Leads, ORIII% Bylaws Code of Conduct will be adhered to throughout this operation. We will stand together with unwavering resolve, doing whatever it takes to keep these Senators safe."
Gov. Kate Brown, acting at the request of legislative leaders, directed State Police Superintendent Travis Hampton to find and return the senators to the Capitol.
She was acting on authority in the Constitution and Oregon law, state officials said.
Republicans' absence was intended to deny the Senate the 20 members required to meet. Democrats number 18, not enough to legally meet for votes.
Republicans' departure has stirred national attention.