Fears of more violence as another Trump rally comes to Portland Saturday

By Jonathan Levinson (OPB)
Aug. 28, 2020 8:51 p.m. Updated: Aug. 28, 2020 11:26 p.m.

Seven days after violent street clashes downtown, a second rally is planned for this weekend.

Energized from the Republican National Convention and President Donald Trump’s acceptance speech Thursday night, Trump supporters are planning a vehicle parade through the Portland area Saturday.

According to a Facebook event, the rally is scheduled to start in Clackamas in the late afternoon and continue through Portland.


In the president’s remarks, he again condemned ongoing protests against racist violence in the city.

“They will pass federal legislation to reduce law enforcement nationwide,” the president said in his acceptance speech Thursday night. “They will make every city look like Democrat-run Portland, Oregon. No one will be safe in Biden’s America.”

Multiple comments on the event page for Saturday’s rally showed photos of rifles, and people commented that they planned to attend the rally armed.

Organizers have not yet released route details.

A pro-Trump, pro-police rally in front of the Multnomah County Justice Center last weekend turned violent as hundreds of demonstrators, many armed, engaged in physical fights with anti-fascist counter demonstrators.

At that event, demonstrators shot paintball guns and sprayed bear mace at each other. Alan Swinney, a member of the Proud Boys — a group that frequently engages in violence at protests — brandished a firearm at protesters. Portland police took no action to break up the rally or keep the two sides separated.


“We’ve been deploying resources at night approaching 90 days, so we have our staffing kind of set for our night activities,” Portland police chief Chuck Lovell said in response to criticism over the bureau’s inaction.

At a Wednesday evening “all lives matter” protest in Gresham, city councilors and Gresham police stood between conservative demonstrators and the Black Lives Matter counter-protesters. That protest was mostly non-violent.

Portland police said specific plans for Saturday will depend on how the rally plays out.

“So much of the police response is dependent on the actions of other people,” Lieutenant Greg Pashley said. “Since there is no way to predict actions a day ahead of time, I can’t be more specific.”

The city’s response to last week’s rally and the planned events for Saturday stand in stark contrast to preparations for a far-right rally planned in late August of last year. In the run up to that rally – amidst similar fears of violence – community organizations, unions and city leaders spoke to a large gathering in Pioneer Courthouse Square to condemn white supremacy and outside agitators.

Flanked by U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy Williams, Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, Portland Police Association president Daryl Turner and then-police Chief Danielle Outlaw, Mayor Wheeler made it clear where he stood.

“To those of you who plan on using Portland on Aug. 17 as a platform to spread your hate, you are not welcome here. To those who promote violence during otherwise peaceful demonstrations, you are not welcome here,” Wheeler said to attendees ahead of last year’s gathering. “And to any white supremacists who plan on coming to our community on Aug. 17, you are not welcome here.”

The police bureau’s extensive preparation for that rally, which records revealed included a request for assistance from the Oregon National Guard, paid off. The bureau was generally lauded for keeping the two groups separate, allowing each side to demonstrate, and preventing the kind of violent clashes that took place last weekend.

Pashley said comparing this year to last year fails to take the current context into consideration. He pointed to the city’s understaffed police force, saying 51 sworn officers retired from the bureau in August and another 100 officers are still in training.

“You have to have a certain number of police officers to serve the community,” Pashley said. “And right now, the Portland police doesn’t have that number. This city has outgrown the size of its police department.”