By Jeff Knox
(March 1, 2017) A video journalist in Oregon is facing hard time for brandishing a gun to defend himself from an angry mob. The journalist, Michael Strickland, was covering a Black Lives Matter protest march in Portland on July 7, 2016 – the same day that a BLM supporter in Dallas murdered 5 police officers and injured 9 others, along with 2 civilians during a BLM march in that city. Strickland is a fixture at left-wing events, and is well-known among organizers and participants for his mocking YouTube channel called Laughing at Liberals. His activities are not popular with the groups, and at some recent events, protesters have violently confronted him. He has been physically assaulted, sustaining a broken arm, and has camera equipment stolen.
During the Portland protest, a mob spotted Strickland, pushed him around, and ordered him to leave. An attempt was made to take his camera away, but Strickland extricated himself and moved down the street. A few minutes later, the “free speech” activists again confronted Strickland. This time a large, obviously angry man was the central figure bearing down on and confronting him. Several other reporters in the area tried to calm the advancing protesters, as Strickland again attempted to retreat, but as he moved away, the tall, muscular man shrugged off his backpack and moved aggressively toward Strickland. At the same time, an obese man wearing a black skull mask who had been among the group that had initially assaulted Strickland, rushed forward on Strickland’s left flank.
At this point, Strickland took a few quick steps backwards, yelling “Back off!” and drawing a Glock 9mm, which he first pointed in the general direction of the obese man, then swung back toward the tall muscular fellow. As soon as the rush subsided, Strickland re-holstered the handgun while continuing to back away. A reporter said something to him, and Strickland stopped retreating long enough to express to the reporter that he thought the protesters were about to attack him, mentioning that some were brandishing heavy poles with black flags on them.
As Strickland moved on up the street, the protesters continued to follow him. A reporter encouraged him to go on while he and others tried to keep everyone back, but Strickland expressed concern that if he turned his back, someone might try to jump him. After getting about a half-block away from most of the protesters, he stopped to answer questions from another reporter. That was a mistake, as the angry mob again began closing in. Finally a bystander convinced Strickland to keep moving, and he got around the corner, where a group of Portland Police took him to the ground and arrested him.
Police asked members of the crowd whether they had witnessed the events. Then they asked if anyone present had felt directly threatened by the man with the gun. The first person to step up to declare himself a victim was the same obese man who had been helping to instigate the confrontation. He was later a star witness for the prosecution.
Strickland was cited on two misdemeanor counts of Menacing and Disorderly Conduct, and released on his own recognizance that night. The next day the charges were upped to include two felony counts of Misuse of a Weapon. Bail was set at $250,000 based on claims that Strickland was some sort of white supremacist.
When prosecutors and city officials – many of whom had been “victims” of Strickland’s biting videos at Laughing at Liberals – realized who Strickland was, the charges began stacking up. He was eventually indicted, tried, and convicted of 10 felony counts of Unlawful Use of a Weapon, 10 counts of Menacing, and one count of Disorderly Conduct. He will be sentenced in May, and faces in excess of 50 years in prison. None of the people who attacked him have been charged.
All of the altercation was captured on video from multiple angles, but few of those videos have surfaced. Strickland’s own video of the events was seized by the police and has not been released. Part of it was shown in court, but it has not been made available to the public. What is available is cluttered and confusing – as, no doubt, was the actual event. The videos clearly show several people crowding and menacing over Strickland, then aggressively moving toward him until the gun appears and they back off.
Strickland’s lawyers, convinced that a fair trial could not be had in extremely “liberal” Multnoma County, asked for a change of venue, but that was denied. When the jury pool proved to be exactly as expected, the lawyers advised waiving the jury trial and taking the case directly to the judge. Hindsight suggests that was a mistake, as the judge declared that Strickland was not being threatened and was not justified in deploying his handgun. One of the organizers of the protest admitted during the trial that a group of enforcers had been tasked with keeping Strickland away from the protest – by force if necessary.
As someone knowledgeable about firearms and self-defense, I think Mr. Strickland made some questionable decisions that day, but I believe the videos clearly show a man in fear of imminent, grave bodily harm taking action to prevent that harm. Much of this case is reminiscent of prosecutors blaming a rape victim for dressing provocatively and walking in a seedy neighborhood after dark. The conclusion seems to be that Mr. Strickland brought this all upon himself by posting controversial videos, carrying a gun, and going where he knew people hated him. His greatest offense appears to have been that of being an outspoken conservative in a liberal community.
In Portland, conservative lives don’t matter.