The outside of the Beth Israel synagogue
Congregation Beth Israel was one of the religious center's targeted during the attacks. Google Maps

Former journalist Michael Bivins is facing 11 criminal charges for allegedly vandalizing several religious centers and minority-owned businesses in recent weeks. On Tuesday, the Multnomah County District Attorney's office charged Bivins with one count of Arson in the First Degree, five counts of Criminal Mischief in the First Degree, and five counts of Bias Crime in the Second Degree.

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According to a press release, Bivins began his alleged spate of attacks by allegedly smashing a window at the Shir Tikvah Synagogue on April 30. Within the following week, Bivins allegedly broke a window at Everybody Eats PDX—a Black-owned business, spray painted an antisemitic death threat on the Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue, tried to set fire to the Muslim Community Center of Portland while people were inside, and returned to Beth Israel to throw a rock through a window.

Days after the attacks, Bivins allegedly walked into a TV news station and demanded to speak to a reporter. According to an affidavit included in Bivins’ case file, Bivins told the reporter he was involved in the various attacks and that he wanted to break the window of “any Black-owned or minority-owned business.” The reporter also told police that Bivins made several antisemitic remarks, including comments seemingly in support of the Holocaust and that “Jewish people deserve the hate that goes towards them.”

Portland police arrested Bivins on May 6 as he was leaving a TriMet bus. He has remained in jail since.

Following Bivins’ arrest, Rabbi Michael Cahana of Congregation Beth Israel posted a message to Facebook thanking the community for their support following the attack.

“Although the crimes committed were against property, we know that left unchecked, hate speech can lead to violence,” Cahana wrote. “We are grateful that we are all safe.”

In a conversation with the Mercury, Cahana said that the attacks should serve as a reminder that Portland is not immune from the rise in hate crimes in recent years, both in Oregon and across the country. In 2020, the most recent national data available, the FBI recorded the most hate crimes in over a decade. Nationally, attacks against Jewish people accounted for more than 50 percent of all hate crimes against religious groups in 2020, according to FBI data.

Bivins is scheduled to have his charges read and trial date set before a judge on June 27 at 9 am.

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