Rally organizer: ‘I don’t do hate speech’

'Trump Free Speech Rally' set for Sunday afternoon in Portland

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, Patriot Prayer rally organizer Joey Gibson, May 30, 2017 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — One day after Mayor Ted Wheeler called for the federal government to revoke the permit issued for a “Trump Free Speech Rally,” he and Police Chief Mike Marshman met with organizer Joey Gibson, who said the rally will be peaceful.

On Monday, Wheeler said he’s urging the federal government to immediately revoke the permit for the event he termed “alt-right” and to not issue a permit for another event on June 10. That rally is an anti-Sharia Law rally that is set for cities across the US.

When asked what concerned him about the upcoming protest, Wheeler said it was the idea participants were “coming to peddle a message of hatred and bigotry.”

“I’m reminded constantly that they have a First Amendment right to speak. But my pushback on that is that hate speech is not protected,” the mayor said.

The ACLU of Oregon responded to Wheeler’s request by stating, “The government cannot revoke or deny a permit based on the viewpoint of demonstrators.”

Joey Gibson, the organizer with Patriot Prayer of this coming Sunday’s demonstration at Terry Schrunk Plaza, told KOIN 6 News he believes Wheeler made a big mistake.

“He basically is asking the federal government to break the Constitution and then at the same time he said that we were connected to Jeremy Christian and I’m going to spew out hate speech,” Gibson said. “It’s frustrating because what he did is he threw gasoline on the fire and made the situation a lot worse.”

Joey Gibson, the Patriot Prayer organizer of a free speech rally, May 30, 2017 (KOIN)
Joey Gibson, the Patriot Prayer organizer of a free speech rally, May 30, 2017 (KOIN)

Gibson wants Wheeler to watch his speeches and videos. “Then, at that point make a decision about whether I’m going to say hate speech, because that’s not what I do.”

He also disavowed any connection with Jeremy Christian.

The June 4 rally is to promote freedom, limited government, spirituality and Christian values, Gibson said.

“The main thing is freedom and going into these liberal areas and help the conservatives, Libertarians, all of them, give them faith that there is hope to, like, come together and let’s try and make a change,” he said.

He’s not concerned about violence because, he said, police will do their jobs and anyone who throws a punch or does illegal activity “will be thrown in jail.”

PPB Chief Mike Marshman, May 30, 2017 (KOIN)
PPB Chief Mike Marshman, May 30, 2017 (KOIN)

PPB Chief Marshman said the police have no problem with people exercising their First Amendment rights.

“But what we’re concerned about is you have countering groups or opposing groups and sometimes 2, 3 or 4 groups that don’t agree with each other’s message and having that potentially escalate into violence. That’s the part we’re concerned about,” the chief told KOIN 6 News.

He said he expects different groups to show up on Sunday. “Hopefully they can independently say their own message and not have conflict with one another. That’s our main goal right now.”

“It’s my experience when emotions rise, logic tends to go down.I think more people might show up and some of that anger might surface quicker.” — PPB Chief Mike Marshman

Marshman added another factor is the heightened emotion in the city at this time.

“It’s my experience when emotions rise, logic tends to go down. … I think more people might show up and some of that anger might surface quicker. So it’s going to be extra work, I think, to have a safe event on Sunday.”

Wheeler’s request to withdraw the permit, his office said, ““does not reflect a desire to censor political speech. Our only goal is the safety of the city. He believes this rally is scheduled for the wrong time in the wrong place, in the wake of a horrible attack and in the midst of a week long, family friendly festival.”

The chief said the goal of having the mayor’s office and the demonstration organizers meet is to get everyone on the same page “so nobody is caught off guard and nobody is surprised. Then, if we mitigate some of that stress, hopefully Sunday will go smoothly.”

The permit, Gibson said, will also help keep the demonstration peaceful.

Terry Schrunk Plaza in downtown Portland, May 30, 2017 (KOIN)
Terry Schrunk Plaza in downtown Portland, May 30, 2017 (KOIN)

“We’re allowed to kick out anyone we want, so anyone causing problems, anyone saying stuff that we disagree with, anyone with any type of white supremacy affiliations will be gone.”

Without the permit, he said, “we don’t have the right to kick people out.”

Marshman also suggested keeping the “status quo” on the permit to alleviate the “uncertainty” surrounding the demonstration.

The permit, Marshman said, “allows us to plan with all the groups so everybody knows what everybody else is doing. That’s not a bad way to enter into something like this.”

Gibson added the anti-Sharia Law event on June 10 will no longer take place in Portland.

“There was one in Seattle,” Gibson told KOIN 6 News, “so what they’re going to do is take all the resources since all the people are kind of close anyway and just going to double the event in Seattle.”