Portland Leaders Nervously Prepare for Dueling Protests Saturday

A cursory glance at the extended weather forecast— and the local news— suggest that Portlanders might be advised to spend this weekend somewhere calm, like the Oregon coast.  Or, for that matter, perhaps Syria.  To be sure, there are plenty of events happening in and around the city.  The Portland Police want you to know that.  The main event, of course, is an expected right-wing rally, and left-wing counter-protest, at Tom McCall Waterfront Park.  To those expected to attend, including many from out of town (or out of state), Portland’s political and business leaders had a simple message: stay home.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Police Chief Danielle Outlaw joined 100 local groups Wednesday at Pioneer Courthouse Square.

More than 100 city agencies, labor unions, universities, organizations, and other individuals gathered Wednesday in Pioneer Courthouse Square to denounce violence, and those who would bring it to Portland on Saturday.  The Unipiper was there, an often viral symbol of Portland weirdness.  So was Timber Joey, mascot of Soccer City’s MLS team.  Some speakers, like Police Chief Danielle Outlaw, and U.S. Attorney Billy Williams, tried to stay above the conflict.  “The actions of a few, who include masked cowards and marauding thugs, have tarnished the reputation of Portland,” Williams said.  Outlaw, whose police force had ironically been accused by both sides of favoring the other, pledged officers would be neutral, and numerous.

Other speakers were anything but, including Rabbi Debra Kolodny, of Portland United Against Hate.  “Creating false equivalencies between violent white nationalists and those willing to defend our city against their violence is unacceptable,” she said.  Sarah Iannarone, who is running against Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler from the left, told the Willamette Week she’ll be there Saturday, “counter-protesting in solidarity with #EverydayAntifascists,” and attacked what she called “bothsidesism.”  “Mayor Wheeler telling people to ‘stay home’ on Saturday belies his lack of understanding of and support for the fight for civil and human rights underway in our streets.”

A flier from the Portland Police Bureau advertising several other events in and around the city Saturday.

Understaffed, and frequently outnumbered by these political street fighters, Portland’s Police Bureau is leaving nothing to chance this time.  None of the 1,000 police officers will have the day off Saturday.  Chief Outlaw also called for backup, and got it, from the Oregon State Police, officers from as far away as Eugene, and even the FBI.  Mayor Wheeler said he may also ask Governor Kate Brown to call up the National GuardThe police also made a pair of arrests Wednesday, in connection with a May 1 brawl, outside the ironically-named Cider Riot.  Four men, all affiliated with right-wing group Patriot Prayer, have been charged with a series of crimes.  Cider Riot owner Abram Goldman-Armstrong is suing group leader Joey Gibson, and others, for damages.

Wednesday displayed an uneasy calm, full of unlikely characters, united in their hopes that the scenes from earlier this summer that made the city infamous will not be repeated.  While many were quick to pin the cause of their unrest squarely at the group organizing the rally, and the Florida-based talk radio host who instigated it, one spry Portland political veteran made a plea for peace.  “Let us be more kind with our day-to-day dealings with each other,” asked Avel Gordly, the first African-American woman elected to the state senate.  “All we have on this planet— while we still have this planet— is each other.”  A prayer for rain might not hurt either.

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Robert Martin (CN Staff)

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