Protesters silence controversial speaker at College Republicans event

After being invited back to Portland State’s campus following a two-year ban for drawing his gun on protesters, conservative blogger Michael Strickland received a less-than-warm welcome.

A March 5 College Republicans event hosting Strickland was quickly derailed by protesters from the Cascadian Resistance and the Anonymous Underground Activist group after a protester identifying as Sawyer Bohannon started ringing a cowbell every time Strickland tried to speak.

“You pointed a gun at me two years ago,” Bohannon said. “I didn’t touch you, and you pointed a gun at me. I’m just exercising my First Amendment rights.”

Strickland did not have an opportunity to speak during the event’s scheduled time, and PSU Conferences and Events agreed to extend the event by half an hour. Once Bohannon departed, the event resumed as planned, according to College Republicans President Philip Arola.

Two years ago, Portland Community College and PSU banned Strickland from their campuses for a July 2018 incident where Strickland pointed a gun at a group of protesters during a Black Lives Matter protest. Strickland was arrested and found guilty of 21 counts — “10 counts of unlawful use of a weapon, 10 counts of menacing and one count of second-degree disorderly conduct” according to The Oregonian. Strickland is currently in the process of appealing the ruling.

Strickland’s two-year campus ban at PSU ended in July of 2018. PCC banned Strickland for life. “The two-year exclusion has been past practice by Portland State University’s Campus Public Safety Office for at least 23 years,” said PSU Director of Media Relations Kenny Ma.

As part of Strickland’s sentence, the judge banned him from owning guns, covering political events and posting recorded content on his YouTube channel, LaughingAtLiberals. He was sentenced to three years’ parole and 40 days in jail.

Strickland claimed at the event he has a First Amendment rights violation case because the judge’s order stopped him from recording political content. Arola said the group invited Strickland to speak at their event because he had a “long history of documenting these kinds of events [and] rallies that go on in Portland…he was a valuable voice silenced by the court system.”

Arola characterized the restrictions placed on Strickland as an exceptional case. “It’s obviously very common for felons to lose their firearm rights, but very rare to lose their First Amendment rights.”

Social media platforms have introduced myriad legal issues for courts to work through, with the Supreme Court ruling in 2017 that access to the “public square” social media represents is constitutionally protected by the First Amendment.

Though access to social media is constitutionally protected, Strickland’s situation is one of many cases where ex-convicts on parole have limitations placed on their communications and conduct as part of their conditional release.

When confronted at his event about the 2016 incident, Strickland said. “I would have shot those protesters. I was ready to shoot, because I was trained to shoot.”

“I was ready to shoot the ones that I interpreted as direct threats to me,” Strickland said in response to protesters who questioned his qualifications to determine when it was appropriate to shoot unarmed protesters.

A member of the Anonymous Underground Activist group later claimed in an email that “[Strickland is] not knowledgeable, let alone responsible enough to handle or carry a firearm in public.”

“No one in the crowd was armed, within arm’s length or a threatening distance…he drew his weapon on protesters that were about 15 feet away,” the e-mail continued.

Strickland has consistently clashed with protesters at politically-charged events.

The judge’s decision to forbid Strickland to record—and to raise bail to $250,000—was based off of District Attorney Kate Molina’s argument alleging Strickland sent “possibly race-based threats” to an attendee at a Portland vigil for the Pulse shooting victims in 2016.

“[The attendee] screamed his phone number into my camera and encouraged people to call him …he filed a false police report,” Strickland said during the College Republicans event, denying the harassment accusations.