KEY POINTS

  • Illegal checkpoints established by armed residents sprung up around Oregon after rumors spread that antifa had started the wildfires to loot homes
  • Sheriffs in both Clackamas and Multnomah counties, along with the FBI, said that there was no evidence of any antifa involvement in the fires
  • Two Clackamas officers spread misinformation claiming that antifa was involved. One has been placed on administrative leave

Private citizens have set up checkpoints where unfamiliar cars are being stopped  illegally at gunpoint in Oregon’s evacuation zones after rumors spread that antifa had started the fires to loot homes.

Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts reported to CNN that some armed residents had been stopping anyone they didn’t recognize from reentering the area. Many people stopped were simply coming to get their belongings ahead of the wildfires.

“The first thing I’d ask them to do is please stop that,” he said, “It is illegal to stop somebody at gunpoint. … The last thing I want to see is anything tragically happen because somebody is overreacting to something.”

Roberts said his department had contacted “a number” of the people setting up the checkpoints. The department has seen a 400% increased in reports of suspicious persons, mostly unfounded.  Conservative media has exacerbated fears of leftist arsonists, The Oregonian reported.

A man stands guard with a firearm outside his home after wildfires and heavy smoke caused many of his neighbors to evacuate the area, in Estacada, Oregon on September 12, 2020 A man stands guard with a firearm outside his home after wildfires and heavy smoke caused many of his neighbors to evacuate the area, in Estacada, Oregon on September 12, 2020 Photo: AFP / Robyn Beck

Clackamas Capt. Jeff Smitt briefed department commissioners Thursday that there were credible accounts of antifa storing gas canisters for “later destruction” and using chainsaws to fell telephone poles to start fires. Roberts and the FBI have both said that information is incorrect.

Another Clackamas deputy was placed on administrative leave Saturday after he was shown on video claiming that antifa had a “vendetta” and implying that they were responsible for the fires.

He also said that “antifa or some other left-wing crazy people” might take action against firefighters. “Don’t give their location away, please,” he requested of the person filming, “They’ve got no dog in this fight. Don’t video them for their safety.”

Multnomah County has been having similar troubles. After a fire was intentionally set using illegal fireworks on Friday, armed residents began stopping cars and asking for identification. Sheriff Mike Reese said in a press conference, “we told people engaging in this behavior that roadways are open to all users, and their actions are illegal, and they could be subject to citation or arrest.