Years before Donald Trump was elected president, Jeremy Joseph Christian was building a criminal record that included convictions for robbery, kidnapping and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
The Portland man is now accused of whipping out a knife on a commuter train and slashing the throats of three men, killing two of them. The bloodstains hadn’t been cleaned up before Trump was collared as Christian’s political accomplice.
Had Christian killed the two men in the course of a robbery or a drug deal, the usual suspects would have been invoked: He was poor. He has a drug problem. He has a mental illness. He was abused as a child.
But Christian has been tagged a white supremacist because of statements he had made in social media and in Portland marches and protests. The men he stabbed were white so he’s a white supremacist who kills whites.
Had his victims been black, Black Lives Matter would have taken to Portland streets by now, and there would have been some looting and property damage.
The three white men intervened on behalf of two teenage girls (one black, one Arab-American) who Christian ranted at because one of them wore a hijab.
To some Portland activists, politicians and citizens, Trump’s anti-Muslim statements had to be responsible. How else could this have happened in Portland, Ore., of all places?
Last year, 19 candidates ran for mayor in what was mostly a campaign to see who could be the most progressive.
Ted Wheeler won the mayor’s race, and a statement he released after the killings on the train had the depth of a sixth-grader: “We must come together as a community and love one another.”
Actually, most sixth-graders probably understand hatred better than some of our elected officials. Telling someone they must love – or even respect – another person is a good way to nurture resentment and hatred.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill called out to their Muslim brothers and sisters in their statements. Rosenblum and Underhill even invoked Ramadan.
“We honor our Muslim community which was so horribly disrespected on the eve of the Holy Month of Ramadan,” Rosenblum said. “Our entire state must come together to, once and for all, eradicate hatred and bigotry in whatever form.”
Did the killer even know that it was Ramadan? Whatever “disrespect” was felt by Muslims celebrating Ramadan (not all Muslims do), pales in comparison to the loss suffered by the families of the two men who were killed.
Underhill, whose office is responsible for prosecuting the killer, promised the “full resources” of his agency.
That’s a switch coming from him. As of late, Underhill has been supporting a concept called “community prosecution,” which promotes diverting criminal defendants away from being charged in court if their crimes can be linked to drugs or mental illness. Instead of prosecution and punishment, defendants are steered towards diversion programs.
Earlier this year, Underhill was hailed by Street Roots, a weekly newspaper sold by homeless vendors, for his decision to stop prosecuting fare jumpers, who ride the MAX commuter train without paying. What are the odds that Jeremy Joseph Christian was riding for free during the killings? How often had he sauntered on and off the train, insulting other riders as he went?
Then there is Oregon’s governor, Kate Brown.
“I am absolutely heartbroken by the loss of two brave, compassionate lives. … My deepest condolences to the families of the good Samaritans and to the two women who were the target of the suspect’s vitriol.”
She offers equal condolences to the men who got their throats slashed and the two females who were wounded only with words?
“Oregon is a welcoming place to all,” Brown continued. “Safety while traveling through our community is a basic human right that we need to be able to guarantee to everyone, regardless of where they’re from, or what they believe.”
Brown might consider if Oregon in general, and Portland in particular, are too welcoming to violent, warped individuals like Christian.
She has made no secret about her efforts to reform the criminal justice system to be more sympathetic to defendants. A recent example: Brown appointed a new Klamath County District Attorney, and she selected a woman who would bring “a fresh perspective and a record of strong legal advocacy” to the office of county prosecutor.
Who is this woman with a fresh perspective on prosecution? EveLyn Costello, a career criminal defense attorney.
It’s not unusual for a prosecutor to have some criminal defense experience; it can be helpful. But Costello has been a criminal defense attorney for almost 20 years.
Brown apparently wants her District Attorneys to have the perspective of defense attorneys. That’s one way to lower the number of prosecutions and save money on incarceration.
A high profile crime like the commuter train attacks, with middle-class victims (one was a Reed College graduate, the other a Portland city employee) probably won’t lend itself to a “fresh perspective” on prosecution.
In this case, it will be back to old-fashioned prosecution and punishment, the kind that leads to someone being locked up so they can’t hurt other people.
Too many Portland progressives are married to their politics, but they can’t live with the results of those politics. It’s their politics that help create guys like Christian.
“I’m an Ex-Con. I Like Comix, Cannabis and Metal-In Any Combination. If you are an Employer, Fuck Off,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
When a Willamette Week reporter learned from Christian’s Facebook page that he supported Bernie Sanders for president, the writer deemed the discovery “a distraction,” probably because it didn’t mesh with the reporter’s image of an extreme right-winger.
Portland’s extreme left has shown many times that it can be as ugly as Christian’s anti-Muslim rantings. A glaring example: A week before the killings, Willamette Week ran an innocuous feature about two young, non-Hispanic women who opened a food cart called Kooks Burritos after they finally mastered how to make flour tortillas.
Immediately, the women were accused of “cultural appropriation.” Among the comments posted before Kooks Burritos closed:
“DEAR WHITE PEOPLE, STOP APPROPRIATING OUR FOOD. THANKS, A MEXICAN This is infuriating. What is wrong with people? On what level is this ok??? Its (sic) NOT. Its (sic) insulting to our culture and heritage.” (You know what’s really infuriating? Mexicans are white.)
The story of what happened on the train will continue to evolve as it works its way through the courts, particularly now that Christian has a public defender.
One news account suggested the black teenager, fearing for her safety, may have pepper-sprayed him. The man who was stabbed and survived may have pushed Christian first. Defense attorneys may try to portray Christian as a mentally unstable man who felt outnumbered by three men.
The teenage girls’ families may shift some blame to Tri-Met for not providing more security. The train operator made an announcement ordering the person causing a disturbance to exit at the next stop and threatened to call the police.
Ultimately, this being Portland, blame will likely fall somewhere else besides on the man who wielded the knife. But where?
Perhaps the prison system that failed to turn Christian into a nice guy when he was incarcerated.
Or perhaps the police are at fault. They should have been on the train and stopped him like they did 15 years ago when they shot him in the cheek after he robbed a convenience store.
Maybe that’s the problem – the gunshot wound left him brain damaged. The cops should have never shot him.
Or maybe they should have shot and killed him. He’s white, after all, and it would have helped counterbalance Portland’s racist history – a history that Mayor Wheeler recently cited when he launched his national search for a police chief.
While the mayor is trying to shut down a June 4th rally in Portland by what he calls “right-wing agitators,” he has been silent about a free public event on June 3 that will explore “white racial patterns that prevent us from moving towards greater racial equity.”
This workshop on the Lewis & Clark campus will be offered by Robin DiAngelo, the woman credited with creating the term “white fragility.”
Undoubtedly, she will have something the say about the man on the train and Donald Trump.
– Pamela Fitzsimmons
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