A group gathering signatures to repeal the Oregon law that makes the state a defacto sanctuary for illegal aliens has faced legal action, threats, and harassment of its signature gatherers. The group, Oregonians for Immigration Reform (OFIR), has also been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
One volunteer signature gatherer told PJ Media that she faced verbal harassment and physical intimidation while attempting to get folks to sign the petition:
She claimed that our petition was dividing America. Putting fear in Hispanics. She called me a racist, lectured me for some time about how she wanted me to stop what I was doing, we were racists because we were all white, and hateful, and unwanted by society. I told her that many people who had immigrated here legally were our biggest supporters. She said she couldn’t imagine anyone even wanting to support and associate with us.
In addition, she says opponents physically blocked her when people approached her to sign the petition.
Now, in an apparently frivolous legal matter, the University of Oregon has issued a cease and desist order for alleged copyright infringement. The cease and desist letter threatens legal action if OFIR fails to stop using the Oregonians for Immigration Reform “O” (with the tree inside) because the University of Oregon’s lawyers says they received evidence from Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán (MEChA), a radical University of Oregon student group, that claims it is too similar to the University of Oregon’s “O,” essentially trying to halt its signature-gathering campaign.
OFIR states that it has had the same logo since 2000, and the only person or entity to complain in 18 years has been MEChA. Notably, MEChA appears to be using trademark law to stifle political opponents by stating that they don’t like the politics of OFIR and urging the U of O to take action against the group.
The ballot initiative, IP 22, has three Republican state legislators as chief sponsors: Mike Nearman, Sal Esquivel, and Greg Barreto. A spokesman for OFIR would not say how many signatures they have collected so far, but expressed confidence that they are on target to submit a significant number by the deadline of July 6. According to the website StopOregonSanctuaries.org:
Since 1987, Oregon Revised Statute 181A.820 has kept Oregon’s state and local law-enforcement agencies from offering their fullest cooperation to the U.S. authorities charged with identifying and detaining illegal aliens. In doing so, the law has effectively rendered Oregon a “sanctuary” state for foreigners here illegally.
Activists affiliated with Oregonians for Immigration Reform have filed Initiative Petition 22 with the Oregon Secretary of State’s Elections Division. IP 22’s goal: to place a measure onto the November 2018 statewide ballot that will give Oregonians the chance to repeal ORS 181A.820. To reach the ballot, the signatures of 88,184 registered Oregon voters are needed by July 2018.
Note that the change to the statute would simply allow Oregon state agencies to comply with federal immigration law.
For this, everyone involved has been branded a racist, white supremacist, and even a member of a hate group – as defined by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Previous failures to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have led to disastrous consequences for Oregon residents, like the rape victim in a nice neighborhood of Portland in 2017.
In a series of interviews with PJ Media, the president of OFIR, Cynthia Kendoll, detailed the treatment the organization’s volunteers have received. She also noted that the opponents of their work have stepped up the scale and organization of their efforts to delegitimize the group. This, she believes, is the true goal of the trademark challenge OFIR has faced from the University of Oregon.
Regarding the threatened legal matter by the U of O, Kendoll says,
They claim that our tall, slender, oval “O” with a fir tree inside – the first letter of our acronym – is a threat to their “O,” which is a short, squat, boxy letter. In their letter, they claim that OFIR, using that “O,” has been designated as a hate group by SPLC. What we’re doing with our initiative and what we represent is not what the U of O represents. They don’t want there to be any confusion. According to our attorney, they tipped their hand. Instead of saying, simply, your “O” looks too much like ours, they’re using it politically. You can’t use trademark law politically. My attorneys are going bonkers over this. It’s just so clear what they’re doing.
Kendoll believes that the student activist group MEChA might be driving the lawsuit from the university. She says, “What they didn’t tell us, which we find interesting and included in our amendment letter, is that the on-campus group MEChA brought this to the attention of the university. They never mentioned that in their letter to us.” Kendoll says that OFIR submitted a public records request for all communications between MEChA and the university. The university has stated that the communications exist, but have provided only a limited number of them to OFIR.
MEChA’s national website contains quite a bit of information in its About section:
MEChA is an acronym that stands for Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán. We are a student organization that promotes higher education, community engagement, political participation, culture, and history. MEChA chapters are often the only groups on campus that seek to open the doors of higher education for our communities and strive for a society free of imperialism, racism, sexism, and homophobia. MEChA is open to anyone, and does not exclude membership based on socio-economic status, gender, race, or orientation.
Original logo for MEChA (left, circa 1970) depicting the image of Cuauhtémoc (the last Aztec Emperor) and featuring the words “Por Mi Raza, Habla El Espiritu” (the spirit speaks through my race). The words are an adapted version of the motto of Mexico’s National University, created by Mexican writer, philosopher, and politician José Vasconcelos.
The current MEChA logo (right) features a black eagle which is both a nod to the Mexican flag, the Black Panther organization, and the United Farm Workers movement. It is seen holding a lit stick of dynamite, representing the spark or ignition of social revolution by members of the organization. The eagle is also seen clasping a macuahuitl in its talons. It features the words “La Union Hace La Fuerza” (with unity, there is strength). Modern iterations have seen chapters change the style and color of the current logo to reflect their school colors or community, while keeping key elements such as the eagle in the design. As recent [sic] as 2013, many chapters have made use of the original logo or combined use of the two logos above for many activities and materials.
The Eugene Register-Guard reported that the activist group MEChA first brought the issue of the logo to the attention of the university’s legal department:
The UO sent the letter five days after a student group, the University of Oregon Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán, or MEChA, which supports Oregon Chicanos in higher education, objected to OFIR’s O. In a letter to the UO General Counsel’s Office, MEChA said it opposes OFIR’s activities and that OFIR’s use of the O logo “appears to be intentionally designed to leverage the school’s credibility, to normalize a message of hate.” It asked the UO to take trademark protection action.
UO student Carina Garcia, a member MEChA, said her group noticed the OFIR logo a couple of months ago, when it was researching OFIR’s drive to get rid of the state sanctuary law.
In the May 7 letter to OFIR, the UO’s intellectual property law firm said the group’s logo is a “misappropriation” of the UO image, and it should “change the stylization of its O so that OFIR’s O does not look like Oregon’s trademark.”
The full letter from U of O to OFIR can be read at this link.
The letter from OFIR’s attorney lays out a lengthy and thorough response. It can be read in full by clicking here. At one point, the letter notes MEChA’s radical and racist past, and the fact that the National Council of La Raza found them so radical that they’ve severed ties. They go on to question why the letter to OFIR was sent to Eugene’s largest newspaper, and accuse the U of O of deliberately placing it in the public sphere to drive the narrative that OFIR is a hate group:
- Public Release of Your Letter. It is obvious that either your law firm or the UO GC’s Office, leaked Your Letter to the Register Guard reporter for the purposes of the Article. Do you make a point of doing that in your typical trademark cases or did you intentionally leak Your Letter here to publicly damage the reputation of my client and somehow harm its ability to conduct its affairs, including its voter initiative? If you have, then that action in itself is ethically questionable especially for an entity that represents a large, public educational institution and illegal under Oregon State election law as described below.
We demand to see all communication between your firm and the Register Guard relating to this matter.
- Coordination between the OU Office of General Counsel, MEChA and Your Firm. From the tone of the Article, it is fairly apparent that the OU GC’s Office, MEChA and your firm, coordinated the preparation of Your Letter, its release to the Register Guard, the quotation of UO MEChA student Carina Garcia and UO spokesman Tobin Klinger and the work of your law firm. If I am wrong, please let me know otherwise.
We demand to see all documentation and records of all telephone calls between all of the entities listed above relating to this matter.
In addition, we would like to know whether any of the above entities have had any contacts either through e-mails, mail, telephone, texts or the like with the Southern Poverty Law Center related to Your Letter.
This is just one way the SPLC Hate Watch list has been used to chill political activity by groups that don’t toe the liberal line. As noted in the forthcoming book, Behind the Curtain, the SPLC notoriously claims nonpartisanship while simultaneously labeling traditional conservative policy as hate speech:
One need look no further than the famous Hate Map they publish annually. When the Family Research Council finds itself targeted by a crazed gunman intent on killing employees because it showed up on the SPLC Hate Map, you know your mission has crept away from its original intent. Indeed, the FBI has ceased citing SPLC as a credible source of information on potential criminal activity.
Now, one thing SPLC still does really well is fundraising. Fear mongering is good for the bottom line, apparently. A review of SPLC from Philanthropy Roundtable said, in part, “Its two largest expenses are propaganda operations: creating its annual lists of ‘haters’ and ‘extremists,’ and running a big effort that pushes ‘tolerance education’ through more than 400,000 public-school teachers. And the single biggest effort undertaken by the SPLC? Fundraising. On the organization’s 2015 IRS 990 form it declared $10 million of direct fundraising expenses, far more than it has ever spent on legal services.”
Think about that for a moment. It has never even approached $10 million in legal expenses, the original intent of SPLC’s founding, but annually spends that much just on fundraising.
It seems evident SPLC’s only remaining legitimate function is to provide intellectual cover for the policy positions of the most extreme leftist foundations which exist solely to brand conservative, traditional thought as hate speech.
Jeff Reynolds is the author of the forthcoming book, Behind the Curtain: Inside the Network of Progressive Billionaires and Their Campaign to Undermine Democracy, due out Fall 2018. You can follow Jeff on Twitter @ChargerJeff.