Shortly after midnight on Saturday, March 27, a man was brutally attacked in the heart of downtown Portland. His attacker shot him and left him lying in the street. He is currently in the Intensive Care Unit in an area hospital, fighting to overcome extensive injuries.
It is no secret that this man, Luke Querner, is a long-time anti-fascist activist. He has devoted over a decade of his life to opposing the most vicious elements of our city’s white supremacist movement. Rose City Antifascists, the Portland chapter of the Anti-Racist Action Network, believe that the local neo-Nazis whom Luke has opposed for years attempted to murder him on Saturday morning.
Luke is proud to be an anti-racist skinhead. The true skinhead movement has always been anti-racist, tracing its origins to the cultural intersection of Jamaican immigrants and working class whites in England during the 1960s. After racists and the far-Right attempted to hijack the skinhead movement in the late 1970s and ‘80s, a movement known as SkinHeads Against Racial Prejudice (SHARP) emerged in 1987 to reaffirm the anti-racist roots of the subculture. As with many other anti-racist skins, Luke is deeply committed to racial equality and social justice. This commitment has caused Luke to be targeted in the past.
Rose City Antifa believes that the most recent attack was planned and committed by an element within Portland’s neo-Nazi underground. This is the most logical explanation for such a vicious act, for several reasons:
1. Local neo-Nazi organizations and cliques have the capability to carry out such an act. Several organizations, including the Portland-centered Volksfront International, are tightly-organized, disciplined, and command significant loyalty from adherents and sympathizers. Their members have experience committing violent acts, including murder.
2. Luke was a prime enemy of organized racists. Luke and his community have been violently targeted by Volksfront in the past. The recent shooting echoes the sentiments expressed in the song “SHARP Shooter” by the old Volksfront-affiliated rock band, Jew Slaughter.
3. Local fascist groups have spent recent months uniting despite organizational differences. Volksfront as well as National Socialist Movement affiliates hosted a series of social events that have likely emboldened individual fascists. One recent point of unity between local neo-Nazi cliques and groups—whether they be Volksfront, the Northwest Front, the National Socialist Movement or Hammerskins—has been common targeting of anti-racists and the Left.
4. Given the overall resurgence of the radical Right in recent years (see Southern Poverty Law Center report), neo-Nazis have expressed more urgency in their propaganda, expecting a race war in the near future.
Luke is an entrenched and beloved figure in the anti-racist community and well known by local fascists. Saturday’s shooting was an intentional message that those standing up for equality are in mortal danger.
Portland has a long, violent history of racist organizing that continues to this day. In the late 1980s, Portland became notorious as a hotbed of white supremacist activity. Many organizations, such as the Aryan Nations, declared the Pacific Northwest to be a future white homeland. The groups that would go on to comprise Volksfront and other formations, swelled in numbers. The 1988 murder of Ethiopian student Mulugeta Seraw and trial of the three neo-Nazi culprits represented the high water mark of Nazi terror at that point. Concerted community efforts, as well as a high-profile civil suit, drove many local neo-Nazis underground. Unfortunately some of these white supremacists are still here, always struggling to re-emerge.
The attempted killing also reminds us of the 1998 executions of Lin “Spit” Newborn and Dan Shersty–who were also anti-racist skinheads–by neo-Nazis in the desert outside of Las Vegas, Nevada.
Rose City Antifa believes that this shooting is of particular significance, representing a neo-Nazi attempt to reclaim the streets and apply their white supremacist agenda through force and terror. This seems to be tied to the larger context of a nationwide mobilization of the radical Right.
We criticize the Portland Police response to this tragic attack, which appears to be further victimizing the survivor and his community. This police approach reflects the Department’s institutional biases regarding race and racial hate, apparent in the recent police bean-bag shotgun assault on a 12-year-old African American girl, and their killing of an unarmed African American man two months ago. Despite the fact that Luke’s shooting was an unprovoked attack with a fairly obvious motive, the police appear to be treating the victim as the problem. The police released Luke’s name to the media on the Sunday after the shooting, in total disregard for his safety and security.
We feel it is extremely important to clarify the nature of this situation, given that the information released so far has generally situated this event in the same category as an unrelated shooting about 50 minutes earlier in Portland, reportedly related to violence between rival gangs. Treating Luke’s shooting as a gang related event obscures the political implications of the attack, and utterly misses the point. The racist overtones of much of the online commentary on the coverage is particularly appalling given that Luke was someone that spent his entire adult life fighting white supremacy. Portland Anti-Racist Action vigorously challenges any assumptions that the ambush was performed by people of color, which may have been suggested by prior media coverage. This was not a fight that got out of hand. There was no fight. It was an assassination attempt.
Luke is currently looking at a mountain of medical bills. The Anti-Racist Action Network is currently hosting benefits from coast to coast to raise funds. In addition, the ARA network has set up a PayPal account to send Luke donations.
As always, Rose City Antifa is looking for any and all information related to fascist organizing in our town. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a voice mail message at 971.533.7832. We will not rest until we see some measure of justice for Luke.