By Philissa Cramer
A man who once reported about political extremism in Portland, Oregon, was arrested this week in connection with a string of vandalism incidents at synagogues and a mosque there.
Michael Bivins was charged with one count of arson and three counts of criminal mischief, according to Willamette Week, the weekly independent newspaper where many of his articles appeared.
The charges stemmed from three incidents at local houses of worship: a rock thrown through a window at Congregation Shir Tikvah April 30; a fire and graffiti at Congregation Beth Israel on May 2 and 4; and a fire at the Muslim Community Center of Portland May 3.
Bivins had taken photos and video at clashes between police and protesters in Portland, where the Trump administration cracked down on protesters in 2020, according to local media. (The Oregon attorney general who battled Trump is a Beth Israel congregant.) His Twitter account shows that he more recently had begun posting anti-mask content and conspiracy theories about the Biden administration and had also experienced housing instability in the last year.
After Bivins’ arrest, which came after he entered a local TV station and asked to speak with a reporter there, Cahana said the episode underscores the importance of reporting even seemingly minor incidents.
“This series of events, which has shaken our community, is an important reminder that even incidents which seem random and unrelated or too minor to bother with, should be properly reported,” he wrote in a letter to congregants. “We are all responsible for one another.”
The incidents at the synagogues came just after Yom Hashoah, the Jewish Holocaust memorial day, while the mosque fire came just after Eid, the festival to mark the end of Ramadan.