More than 1,000 people gathered Saturday in Clackamas County at the area’s largest rally for President Donald Trump amid the 2020 election season. Demonstrators then formed a caravan of hundreds of cars that poured into downtown Portland.
The parade led to tense moments between Trump supporters and counter-protesters who gathered on sidewalks and in the streets in opposition. After most of the Trump supporters had left the area, Portland police said a man was shot and killed downtown around 8:45 p.m. Police have not said whether the killing was related to the demonstrations.
The man’s body lay on Southwest Third Avenue near Alder Street. Next to the body was camouflage gear with infidel and thin blue line patches, which commonly indicate support for law enforcement. Police taped off the area.
The opposing demonstrations came days after various speakers decried Portland’s nightly protests during the Republican National Convention, an event that was capped off with a 74-minute speech when Trump accepted the party’s presidential nomination and cast the city as lawless. Trump also traded sharp criticism with Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler Friday on Twitter.
The demonstration marked the third consecutive Saturday that pro-Trump demonstrators and counter-protesters clashed in downtown Portland. The car parade was the largest by far.
Yet as opposing protesters shouted at each other and scuffled at times, bystanders went about their everyday lives. People filled picnic tables outside bars and drank beers. A man and two children watched the cars stream past.
Trump supporters first converged outside of Clackamas Town Center late Saturday afternoon. More than 1,000 vehicles, many displaying Trump flags, filled a portion of the mall’s parking lot, said Sgt. Marcus Mendoza, a spokesperson for the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.
Members of the Three Percenters, a far-right militia group, patrolled the crowd carrying paintball guns. Event organizers asked people on social media not to openly display firearms, but encouraged concealed carry.
Tensions briefly flared between some pro-Trump demonstrators and a small group of counter-protesters after a dispute over a parking space ended in one person using pepper spray, Mendoza said.
The crowd turned its attention at 5 p.m. to a short series of speeches that started with the national anthem. People held Make America Great Again hats to their hearts as the anthem played. Almost no one wore masks.
“This rally is not a protest,” Alex Kyzik, an organizer, told the crowd. “This rally is a celebration of a great president.”
“Our goal here is to maintain the peace and make sure everyone has an opportunity to exercise their First Amendment rights,” Mendoza said.
A spokesperson for Brookfield Properties, a New York firm that owns the mall, has not yet responded to a question about the mall’s stance on the event.
The caravan of hundreds of cars started to leave the mall around 5:15 p.m., with a few tractor-trailer cabs leading the way. Drivers honked as they left. The route navigated from 82nd Avenue to Highway 224 to Highway 99 into Portland. Deputies blocked part of 82nd Avenue for about 45 minutes as the caravan got started, Mendoza said.
From Highway 99 vehicles turned onto the Morrison Bridge and exited on to Interstate 5. Organizers planned to loop around downtown from I-5 to I-405.
Around 6:10 p.m., a group of about one dozen counter-protesters arrived on the Morrison Bridge to attempt to block the parade. A fist fight broke out between two people after a person got out of a vehicle. Portland police quickly arrested people.
Then around 6:45 p.m., the route shifted from Interstate 5 and into downtown. The cars wove through different streets downtown, including past the Multnomah County Justice Center, the heart of nightly Black Lives Matter protests that began 94 days ago.
As cars waving Trump flags drove by, some people stood on the sidewalk and shouted chants opposing Trump. Some people tried to block the parade path at certain points. Police arrested one man who was trying to block the cars.
Tensions quickly escalated. Growing groups of opposing crowds gathered on Southwest Washington Street near 12th Avenue around 7:30 p.m. At least two fist fights broke out. Plain-clothes Portland police arrived just before 8 p.m. to respond to the tense scene that involved a bike caught under a BMW SUV. It was unclear what happened. Police left 15 minutes later, but tensions continued to flare between both sides.
At other points along Washington Street, traffic was stalled. Cars displaying Trump flags continued to pour into downtown. At Fourth Avenue, counter-protesters pulled a Trump flag out of a white van, leading to a brief scuffle. People threw the flag into the middle of the intersection and began dancing on it.
Portland police said in a press release that officers “tried to respond to disturbances as quickly as possible to restore order, prevent violence and keep traffic moving.” But police said it was difficult to do so in part because the skirmishes were also happening on the east side of the river. Officers ultimately arrested 10 people throughout the night connected to the confrontations. Most were arrest on charges of disorderly conduct.
The caravan and confrontations continued until 8:30 p.m., then most Trump cars started leaving downtown. At the same time, a crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters started growing outside the Justice Center.
News of the fatal shooting drew a small crowd to Third Avenue, which police had taped off. Police have not yet identified the person killed or said if they arrested a suspect.
A second crowd gathered around activist Joey Gibson, a leader of the far-right group Patriot Prayer. Gibson appeared to return to downtown late Saturday after the shooting.
A photo from the scene published by Getty Images showed the person wearing a hat with a Patriot Prayer logo. The far-right group has been at the center of multiple Portland demonstrations that often culminate in violent clashes.
Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson said he had also seen the photo of the person killed. He did not say whether he knew the person.
“I have to figure out what the hell is going on,” Gibson said when reached by phone Saturday night, before hanging up.
Gibson left downtown around 9:50 p.m. after he was trailed for several blocks by counter-protesters. He apparently tried to retreat into a gas station on West Burnside Avenue. Protesters gathered outside and pushed windows, breaking some of them. Portland police eventually moved in and ordered people to leave the area.
After a minutes-long face off between police and demonstrators, some officers appeared to escort Gibson away from the scene.
Police left the scene soon after. The crowd moved south on Fourth Avenue back to the Justice Center. About 300 demonstrators had gathered outside the federal courthouse next door by 10:15 p.m. The crowd remained there for more than an hour. People chanted, “Black lives matter!” to the beat of drums. Unlike many recent nights, people did not throw things or take other actions to draw out police.
A longtime fixture of Portland protests that regularly turned into street brawls, Toese was arrested on an outstanding warrant.
Maxine Bernstein, Mark Graves and Dave Killen of The Oregonian/OregonLive contributed to this report, which has been updated throughout the night.
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