Portland braces for white nationalist protests Sunday

Portland Stands United Against Hate and Patriot Prayer both have Sunday rallies

Patriot Prayer and antifa groups face off in a protest in downtown Portland on June 30, 2017. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Another round of protests is planned for Sunday afternoon in downtown Portland, with a leadoff event against white nationalism followed by a Patriot Prayer rally. Mayor Ted Wheeler said the city “will not tolerate acts of violence.” (Full statement below.)

Portland Stands United Against Hate will hold a “Rally & March Against White Nationalism” beginning at 12:30 p.m. at Terry Schrunk Plaza. They then plan to march to Salmon Street Fountain at Waterfront Park.

Portland Police said the group has been issued a permit for a street march.

TriMet said on Friday commuters should expect delays beginning at 11 a.m. Sunday

Just 90 minutes later, the group Patriot Prayer will begin a “Peaceful Portland Freedom March” at Salmon Street Fountain, according to a Facebook page for the event.

On that page, Patriot Prayer — led by Vancouver’s Joey Gibson — said:

“The entire nation is coming to Portland to help promote freedom. Patriots from all over the country are coming to Portland to show their support for those of us on the West Coast trying to change the culture here. Don’t forget the country is watching, we need to continue to improve and be good examples for those who we are trying to influence.”

Portland Stands United Against Hate describes itself as “a broad-based coalition of dozens of local community organizations (that) will again mobilize to confront the Alt-Right, white nationalist efforts to recruit and promote hate in the Rose City.”

Authorities said there will be a significant police presence due to past threats and acts of violence between the groups — both locally and nationally.

Previous rallies

Previous rallies with these counter-protesters have erupted in violence and arrests.

Counter-protesters hold signs during a pro-Trump rally in downtown Portland, June 4, 2017. (KOIN)

On June 4, thousands of pro-Trump demonstrators and counter protesters converged in downtown Portland for opposing rallies that remained largely peaceful, despite a group of arrests.

That day, hundreds of local conservatives packed Terry Schrunk Plaza carrying pro-Trump signs and flags, eager to hear from alt-right leader Kyle Chapman. Across the street, counter protesters converged outside City Hall for an opposition event called Portland Stands United Against Hate. Others who opposed the pro-Trump group, including local anarchists, gathered in Chapman Square.

Federal Protective Services, along with Oregon State Police and officers from local agencies, were dressed in riot gear, ready to mitigate any potential conflicts.

Patriot Prayer and antifa groups face off in a protest in downtown Portland on June 30, 2017. (KOIN)
Patriot Prayer and antifa groups face off in a protest in downtown Portland on June 30, 2017. (KOIN)

On June 30, with the Waterfront Blues Festival in progress just blocks away, what started as a demonstration billing itself as a “peaceful prayer” erupted in violence downtown.

Two clashing groups of protesters again faced off — each claiming their First Amendment right of free speech. Punches were thrown, fights broke out, people were tossed on the ground and American flags were burned and used as weapons over the course of 2 hours.

On August 6 in Portland, these opposing groups threw punches and pepper spray filled the air amid reports that people in the crowd had their own bottles and were spraying each other. No injuries were reported, but 3 people were arrested.

In late August, Gibson tried to hold his right-wing rallies in the San Francisco Bay area but canceled them over the potential for violence. Gibson then said his followers would go to an anti-Marxist rally in Berkeley, but an organizer of that event canceled it.

Mayor Wheeler’s statement

“On Sunday, Portland will find itself – once again – in the middle of national events, as demonstrators and counter-demonstrators converge on our city. This is not the first set of demonstrations in Portland. This will not be the last. But how we conduct ourselves as a community will send a message about our city to the rest of the nation.

“Portland rejects racism, bigotry, and xenophobia. We reject white supremacy. Messages of hate are not welcome in Portland. We have seen – far too often – how these words of hate can quickly turn to acts of violence. Portland also rejects violence.

“Around the country, we’ve seen demonstrations that have involved arrests and illegal acts. My hope is that we are better than that. We can do it better. We can do it the Portland way. In Portland we celebrate diversity, we stand up for others, we promote unity, and we practice non-violence.

“Over recent weeks, my office has worked closely with the Portland Police Bureau, as well as state, local and federal officials, on plans to protect the safety of everyone who chooses to demonstrate on Sunday. Portland Police will focus on ensuring that people’s right for freedom of expression and speech is protected. However, illegal behavior is not acceptable.

“We will not tolerate acts of violence. We will not tolerate vandalism. We will not tolerate criminal behavior. I call on everyone who plans on demonstrating here Sunday to do so peacefully, to help ensure that everyone goes home safely.”