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Proposed bill: Wear a mask in a riot, face stiff penalties

Legislation planned by Scio representative comes in response to what she said was an 'alarming increase of violent riots in Oregon.'

PMG FILE PHOTO - Members of Antifa wear black masks during a downtown Portland protest. An Oregon legislator has proposed a bill to increase penalties for people caught rioting in masks.Protesters who conceal their faces with masks would face increased penalties under a bill to be introduced in the upcoming legislative session.

Sponsored by state Rep. Sherrie Sprenger, R-Scio, House Bill 4126 is aimed at the "alarming increase of violent riots in Oregon," according to a statement.

PMG/EO MEDIA/SRPortland has seen a rise in heated political rallies, several that erupted into street brawls or riots. The confrontations have typically involved right-wing demonstrators squaring off with anti-fascist (commonly referred to as "Antifa") counter-protestors who often wear masks.

"As a former sheriff's deputy, I know how important it is for law enforcement to be able to accurately and swiftly identify those who are involved in inciting these riots and committing crimes," Sprenger said in a statement.

Noting the difficulty law enforcement faces in responding to these situations, the statement pointed out that former Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw called for a similar policy.

STATE REP. SHERRIE SPRENGERAccording to the statement, about 15 other states and some local governments across the country have similar laws. Sprenger's statement noted that the bill would not outlaw masks, but would increase penalties if someone concealed their faces with the intent to riot. Rioting is a Class C felony in Oregon. The bill would bump the offense up to a Class B felony if people in the riot wore masks to conceal their identities while committing the crime. In Oregon, a Class B felony is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a Class C by 5 years.

The upcoming legislative session begins Feb. 3 and lasts for 35 days. It is expected to be dominated by Democrats' greenhouse gas-reduction bill.

Contact reporter Jake Thomas at 503-575-1251 or jake@salemreporter.com or @jakethomas2009.