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Portland Mayor Calls For Shutdown Of 'Trump Free Speech,' Anti-Muslim Rallies


Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler speaks with citizens at the Hollywood vigil.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler speaks with citizens at the Hollywood vigil.

Bradley W. Parks/OPB

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has urged the federal government to revoke a permit for a “free speech” rally and to refuse a permit for an anti-Muslim march planned for Portland in early June.

Wheeler made the request in light of a gruesome stabbing on a MAX light-rail train Friday, May 26. Two men died and another was seriously injured when they intervened to defend two teenage girls from a man’s bigoted tirade.

In a series of posts on Twitter, Wheeler said the events should be canceled.

“Our City is mourning,” the mayor wrote, “our community’s anger is real, and the timing and subject of these events can only exacerbate an already difficult situation.”

The ”Trump Free Speech Rally” is scheduled for Sunday, June 4. It’s billed on Facebook as an “uplifting experience to bring back strength and courage to those who believe in freedom.”

The rally is set to be held at the Terry D. Schrunk Plaza directly across from Portland City Hall. The site is managed by the U.S. General Services Administration, which issues permits for its use.

The other event is called the “March Against Sharia,” a nationwide anti-Muslim demonstration organized by ACT For America, which calls itself “the NRA of national security.” It is scheduled for June 10, also at Schrunk Plaza.

In addition to requesting action from the federal government, Wheeler said his office is reaching out to event coordinators to cancel the demonstrations.

“I urge them to ask their supporters to stay away from Portland,” Wheeler wrote. “There is never a place for bigotry or hatred in our community, and especially not now.”

It was not immediately clear whether permits have been issued for the demonstrations.

Wheeler said the city of Portland will not issue permits for either event.

Jeremy Joseph Christian, the man accused of murder in the MAX stabbings, attended a similar far-right rally on April 29 called a “March for Free Speech” in East Portland. Police confiscated a baseball bat Christian took to the rally. He frequently used the n-word and saluted Hitler.

Christian has posted offensive material and anti-Muslim rhetoric on social media, said Heidi Beirich, with the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“This guy was definitely expressing anti-Semitic and pro-Hitler material, anti-Muslim rants as well,” Beirich told OPB. “We have sadly seen far too much violence from people who espouse these ideas.”

Wheeler also called on other state and local agencies to back him up in this request.

“I am calling on every elected leader in Oregon, every legal agency, every level of law enforcement to stand with me in preventing another tragedy,” he said.

The ACLU of Oregon responded to the mayor’s statement, saying in a series of tweets the city cannot “shut down speech we disagree with.”

“The government cannot revoke or deny a permit based on the viewpoint of the demonstrators. Period,” the ACLU wrote. It continued, “If we allow the government to shut down speech for some, we all will pay the price down the line.”

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