The Aug. 22 clash between far-right groups and counter-protesters in Portland was the latest in a series of violent confrontations that have rocked the city over the last year.
While last month's incident was not as destructive as the riots that took place last summer, it highlights how the city, with its reputation as a liberal bastion amid the state's early history of white supremacy, has become a proxy in the culture wars, researchers said.
"Portland’s leadership in racial justice reform and community demands for change have made the city a target for right-wing politicians and white supremacist groups, who use Portland as a rhetorical tool for division," the statement said.
Portland Police instead say that instead of a rise in right-wing extremism, there has been an increase in violent disputes that take place in public.
Randy Blazak, the chair of the Oregon Coalition Against Hate Crimes, a non-profit that works with community groups and local, state, and federal governmental agencies to combat hate groups and their activities, told ABC News that the recent conflicts have been decades in the making as groups like the Proud Boys, which were at the Aug. 22 incident, are using their feuds with the far left to fuel their cause around the country.
"Portland being the largest metropolis in the Northwest, is where these ideologies collide," he told ABC News.
Cassie Miller, a senior research analyst with the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project, who has been monitoring the far-right activity in Portland, told ABC News that Oregon has been attractive to white nationalists due to its origin as a state that excluded Blacks and minorities.
Although the state's founders prohibited slavery in 1843, it enacted laws that prohibited Black settlers a year later. The 14th Amendment nullified the exclusion laws in 1868, however, they remained part of the state constitution until 1926.
Miller noted that the Ku Klux Klan had a strong presence in Oregon during the early 20th century using the state's history as a rallying message.
"The region itself has long played a prominent role in the imagination of white power activists, who see it as the ideal place to create a white ethnostate," she said.