The Anti-Defamation League on condemned early Sunday as a “brutal act of terror” the fatal stabbing Friday of two people by a man who was yelling anti-Muslim slurs at two young women on a Portland light-rail train.
“The deadly attack in Portland is not a rare or isolated event. Rather, this is the latest in a long string of violent incidents connected to right-wing extremists in the United States,” the Jewish group’s CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, said in a statement. “Now more than ever, ADL is sounding the alarm about domestic terrorism and hate crimes in America. The scourge of ideologically motivated violence of all kinds, no matter where it happens or in what form, is one of the key issues of our time.
“This consistent threat requires consistent resources and we call on our leaders to condemn this brutal act of terror and craft policy to counter all forms of violent extremism, including white supremacy,” Greenblatt added.
The ADL also sent its condolences to the victims of the stabbing, who were killed after trying to intervene on behalf of the two young women being accosted.
“Our hearts go out to the families of Ricky John Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche who stood up courageously against hate and who lost their lives. We are praying for Micah David-Cole Fletcher’s full recovery and we thank him for his heroism,” Greenblatt said.
Following the attack, police said that they would examine the extremist ideology of Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, who was being held Saturday in the Multnomah County Jail on suspicion of aggravated murder, attempted murder, intimidation and being a felon in possession of a weapon. He was arrested shortly after the attack.
He will make a first court appearance Tuesday, and it wasn’t immediately clear if he had an attorney. A phone at his home in Portland rang unanswered early Saturday.
In addition to naming the victims on Saturday, police also identified the two young women on the train, one of whom was wearing a hijab at the time of the stabbing. Their names haven’t been released.
Meche’s mother, Asha Deliverance of Ashland, Oregon, confirmed on Facebook that her son had been killed. She did not immediately return a call to her business phone listing or a message sent through social media.
“He was a hero and will remain a hero on the other side of the veil. Shining bright star I love you forever,” she wrote.
Meche graduated last year from Reed College in Portland with a bachelor’s degree in economics, the college said on its website. Mayor Ted Wheeler said at a news conference that Best was an Army veteran and a city employee.
“These two men died heroes as a result of a horrific act of racist violence.”
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Christian, the assailant on the train, was ranting on many topics, using “hate speech or biased language,” according to a statement from police.
Friday was the beginning of Ramadan, the holiest time of the year for Muslims, and the attack prompted soul-searching in Portland, a city that prides itself on its tolerance and liberal views. A memorial of flowers and signs quickly grew at the scene by a transit station.
Dyjuana Hudson, a mother of one of the girls, told The Oregonian that Christian began a racial tirade as soon as he spotted the girls. Her daughter is African-American and was with a friend who was wearing a hijab, she said.
“He was saying that Muslims should die,” Hudson said. “That they’ve been killing Christians for years.”
Police say the victims were trying to stop Christian from confronting the girls.
“In the midst of his ranting and raving, some people approached him and appeared to try to intervene with his behavior and some of the people that he was yelling at,” police Sgt. Pete Simpson told the Portland newspaper. “They were attacked viciously.”
Christian has had several encounters with the law, and spent time in prison on robbery and kidnapping convictions years ago, according to court records and a defense attorney.