Portland, Oregon, is reeling from a crime of the most disturbing nature. A white supremacist fatally stabbed two people for defending Muslim women on a light-rail train in Portland, where he had been yelling anti-Islam hate speech.
According to witnesses, the suspect was verbally harassing the two women on the train, one of whom was wearing a hijab. When passengers started trying to defend the women, the suspect lashed out and stabbed three people, two of them fatally. The other man is currently being treated for non-life threatening injuries.
The suspect, reportedly a known felon and a right-wing extremist, fled the train on foot and was quickly caught. He is now being held without bail on multiple counts, including murder, attempted murder, intimidation in the second degree, and possession of restricted weapon as a felon. The FBI has reached out to the local police force to offer help with the investigation.
The city of Portland responded swiftly, rallying around the victims and their families, including starting a GoFundMe page to help the families of the "Tri-Met Heroes." There has also been an outpour of messages of support for the Muslim community, in an effort to make everyone feel safe and make it clear that hate has no place in the city.
The timing of this attack is part of what makes it so disturbing, as it occurred at the beginning of Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims. It's unclear if the attacker timed it on purpose, but police have offered extra patrols to protect the Muslim community as they go to mosques and community centers.
The attacker, a 35-year-old man identified as Jeremy Joseph Christian, has publicly expressed anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi views on his Facebook page. He also appeared in public at a "March for Free Speech," where he was reportedly wearing an old American flag as a cape, yelling the n-word at people, and ranting about identifying as a nihilist. Photos of him doing the Nazi salute have been shared widely in the wake of the attack.
Police at that event reportedly said that they did not find him threatening, because it appeared as though he had a head injury and was mentally ill. According to The Washington Post, Portland police spokesman Pete Simpson said that they had not yet determined his mental state when he carried out the attack, and that he might have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
This is one of the worst examples of the wave of hate crimes that have occurred in the U.S. since the 2016 election. So far, the FBI has released a statement pledging to help, offering condolences to the victims' families, and condemning the act. The White House has yet to release a statement responding to the incident.