Portland prepares for large right-wing rally in support of President Trump

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(CBS News)–Portland, Oregon, is once again bracing for large protests as thousands are expected to descend on the northwest city Saturday in support of President Trump and “law and order.” The right-wing rally will be met by counter-protesters who have been reignited by the recent decision not to charge any officers in the killing of Breonna Taylor.  

The far-right Proud Boys announced they would hold a rally in North Portland, but were denied a permit over COVID-19 concerns, CBS Portland affiliate KOIN reports

Organizers have said the Proud Boys rally, which is scheduled to start at noon, is in support of the president and police, and a condemnation of anti-fascists, which the group accuses of “domestic terrorism.” The Proud Boys are a designated hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center

“As we head into the weekend, we are aware that white supremacist groups from out of town, including the Proud Boys, are planning a rally on Saturday in Portland,” said Oregon Governor Kate Brown in a statement Friday. “Significant crowds of people are expected to join — some people will be armed, with others ready to harass or intimidate Oregonians. Many are from out of state. These types of demonstrations in the past have often ended in fistfights, and sometimes escalated to bloodshed.”

Anti-fascism groups and Black Lives Matter supporters have said they will be protesting nearby in response to the planned Proud Boys rally. 

The confluence of ideologies is nothing new for Portland, which has been host to continuous protests against police violence and systemic racism since the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in May. Nevertheless, Governor Brown said the state is deploying a special law enforcement plan to handle this weekend’s expected tensions. 

“The Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer groups have come to Portland time and again, from out of town, looking for a fight, and the results are always tragic,” Brown said. “Let me be perfectly clear: We will not tolerate any kind of violence this weekend.”

The governor’s plan allows Oregon State Police and the sheriff in charge of public safety in Portland to use tear gas if lives are at risk, and allows dozens more officers to be deployed in their effort to keep the groups apart and avoid bloodshed, KOIN reports. Brown said her intention is to “keep the peace and protect free speech.”

“In America, we have the right to peacefully assemble, and everyone in Oregon has a right to express themselves freely — even those who the vast majority of Oregonians would deeply disagree with,” she said. “However, the First Amendment does not give anyone license to hurt or kill someone because of opposing political views.”

“When free expression is fueled by hate, and coupled with an intention to incite violence, then I need to do everything I can as Governor to ensure the public safety of Oregonians.” 

The governor added, “we will not tolerate that violence and tragedy this weekend. Violence is never the answer. Violence never brings anyone over to your side. Instead, violence only deepens divisions.”

Portland has seen protests against police violence for months, marking 100 consecutive nights of protests in early September. The situation there has drawn attention from Mr. Trump, who sent federal agents to the city over the summer. 

City officials said the nightly demonstrations were dwindling when the Department of Homeland Security decided on July 4 to increase its presence around Portland’s federal courthouse after a small group of people shattered a glass door at the federal building.

The law enforcement escalation — at one point ballooning to include at least 114 federal officers — was followed by an increase in arrests and violence in the city. Dozens more protesters, journalists and federal agents were injured. 

Portland never requested federal help. Mayor Ted Wheeler wrote in an open letter to President Trump on August 28 that the city condemns any looting, arson and vandalism, but said sending in federal officers “made the situation far worse.”

“We don’t need your politics of division and demagoguery,” Wheeler wrote to the president. “Portlanders are onto you… we know you’ve reached the conclusion that images of violence or vandalism are your only ticket to reelection.”

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