Support BikePortland - Journalism that Matters

Armed vigilantes set up roadblocks on the Historic Highway in Corbett

Posted by on September 18th, 2020 at 11:04 am

Three men were cited for an illegal roadblock at the intersection of Larch Mtn Rd and the Historic Columbia River Highway.

The small town of Corbett is well known to bicycle riders in the Portland region. It’s bisected by the Historic Columbia River Highway, it’s a gateway to the Columbia River Gorge, and it sits at the base of Larch Mountain Road, one of most legendary climbs in the state. Corbett High School even serves as the base camp for the annual Larch Mountain Hillclimb Time Trial event.

But it also has a darker side: A locals-only vibe that has persisted for years.

We’ve reported on bicycle riders being verbally threatened for merely existing in the area and there have been multiple incidents of tacks being suspiciously left on the road. Back in May of this year when Covid-19 concerns were at a fever pitch, we shared how riders were mistakenly informed by an Oregon State Parks ranger that they could not ride on the Historic Highway near Corbett unless they lived in the area.

Now, as tensions over wildfires have mixed with conspiracy theories, disinformation on the web, and existing biases, armed civilians have set up roadblocks to deter people from using roads.

On Wednesday the Guardian reported that people were being stopped by armed vigilantes at several locations. Their article includes disturbing details about town meetings where these armed civilians were given permission by a Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office sergeant to guard the area from “suspicious” behavior. The meetings happened after the sheriff’s office reported that someone had set off fireworks that caused a brush fire in the area.

Advertisement

Yesterday Multnomah County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury demanded an immediate investigation into these claims saying, “I am deeply concerned about the reports that the words of some Multnomah County Sheriff’s staff were interpreted by some residents as support or encouragement for roadblocks and vigilante patrols. If that turns out to be true, it is categorically unacceptable.”

Also on Thursday the Sheriff’s Office cited three men involved in one of the illegal roadblocks. The citations for disorderly conduct followed an investigation of a roadblock at the Historic Highway and Larch Mountain Road (pictured).

With air quality improving quickly, people are likely to start riding in Corbett in the next few days. If you see anyone taking part in a roadblock or tracking road users in any way, Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese urges you to call 911.

“We have added extra patrol resources into rural areas,” Reese said in a video last week. “The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office will not tolerate this type of illegal activity.”

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
— Get our headlines delivered to your inbox.
— Support this independent community media outlet with a one-time contribution or monthly subscription.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Doug Hecker
Guest
Doug Hecker

Context is important. People lighting off fireworks in a small town with little resources is a problem.

https://www.koin.com/news/wildfires/fireworks-found-near-brush-fire-in-corbett/

Champs
Guest
Champs

Verbally threatened? This summer I got buzzed, followed up by double birds from the passenger, as the driver veered toward a cyclist coming down.

Edit to add: this was a beige Corvette convertible with Oregon plates, so I could see all of this, and this was on LMR and I did not see them again so they may live there or know somebody who does.

Jon
Guest
Jon

I would not be surprised if crazies like this don’t start using the “defund the police” to justify actions like this more in the future. This is what we get when people divide us into left/right, urban/rural, mask/no mask. We need to curb extremism across the spectrum.

encephalopath
Guest
encephalopath

Red Flag, please. Nobody who acts like that should have a gun.

Jason
Guest
Jason

So, does this mean that Larch Mountain is members (locals) only now?

Skid
Guest
Skid

Makes me want to build a Mad Max style monster truck and roll right over them

jakeco969
Guest
jakeco969

Im sure there are some readers out there who can help me by explaining how this is different from the “Whose streets, Our streets!!!” attitude championed by Jonathan and many others on this site. Folks seemed thrilled when the vigilantes they liked and agreed with shut down roads and at times the Interstate night after night. Vigilantism is the same regardless of who does it and is equally appalling.

Dagny Taggart
Guest
Dagny Taggart

How is a mistaken order from an Oregon State Park Ranger during the COVID hysteria in any way related to this story? It isn’t, and neither are 5 and 10 year old stories about harassment of cyclists and tacks in the road. Journalistic integrity – it’s a thing, you ought to try it.

There were no “vigilante” patrols or roadblocks. Vigilante usually implies actions meant to go after or harm others – see Death Wish 3 with Charles Bronson for examples. That was not the case here. The roadblocks were set up to keep looters and arsonists out of the area. You need to look at the context of the situation on the ground. You would do the same if fires were approaching your neighborhood, arsonists were being arrested around the state for setting fires in rural locations, looters were being arrested in areas affected by the fires and were targeting homes that were evacuated, law enforcement was too busy and could not protect your neighborhood. OR, perhaps y’all are sheep and would just let them loot your property. That’s an option – but be big enough to admit it.

The MCSO Sergeant was correct to tell the locals to watch over the area, if it is the case that law enforcement could not do it. His mistake was in failing to deputize those at the roadblocks and provide some signs, or a letter, or SOMETHING indicating the roadblock was approved by LE. Commissioner Kafoury and Sheriff Reese know that the locals protecting their rural property were doing the right thing, and they know that clueless city folk would not understand, so they are virtue-signaling that “those bad gun owners should not do that”, knowing this will find approval among their clueless constituents.

Red flag laws do not apply because no one was threatened. Red flag laws are for people who threaten others. I have read no reports of people being threatened.

A final thought for you to consider. How many guns do you think are in rural homes that are evacuated. Many folks can’t take all of them, particularly if they have no place to go other than a shelter – they will not let you in with your guns, so some are no doubt left behind. Do you REALLY want looting thugs stealing guns from homes? A typical gun safe will not stop someone for more than a few minutes. Think about THAT! Homes full of guns, and men at a roadblock preventing access to those homes by looters. I recommend you submit those men for a citizenship award medal to be given by Kafoury, Reese, and the Governor, along with their apologies to those who were trying to protect their neighborhood. Invite the Oregonian and have the ceremony photo top of the fold on page A1 of the Oregonian. 😉

Roberta Robles
Guest
Roberta Robles

I just got back from Klamath Falls. Can confirm ***insult deleted by moderator*** arsonists State wide. The SUVs where swarming in the Klamath Basin, but nobody was setting up road blocks. We have a special breed of sub-rural hobbiest snobbiest protecting their little patch of of the Sandy River for themselves. I think Kaufory acting likes she cares is ironic. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out….

eddie
Guest
eddie

This is distressingly reminiscent of the armed teenagers who drove to Kenosha to “protect businesses” from protesters and ended up murdering someone in cold blood.