Before the 100th consecutive night of protests for racial justice began in Portland Saturday night, friends of the late Aaron “Jay” Danielson memorialized him and tried to strike a chord of defiance without encouraging violence.
“I don’t want to see anybody encouraging acts of violence in the name of Jay,” said Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson, who was in downtown Portland the night Danielson was shot and killed.
“I don’t want to see one person go into Portland and commit acts of violence in the name of Jay. Not one.”
More than 100 people flocked to Vancouver’s Esther Short Park for the remembrance, which was partly organized by Patriot Prayer, the far-right, pro-Trump group that Danielson supported. The group has engaged in violence and has attracted white supremacists.
The memorial lasted about two hours and there were no calls about incidents related to the event, said Vancouver Police Department Lt. Kathy McNicholas.
Members of the Proud Boys, which have also engaged in violence at protests, attended the event as well. Some carried flags reading “Fuck Antifa.”
Michael Reinoehl, the man suspected of killing Danielson, had described himself as “100% ANTIFA” on social media. Police shot and killed Reinoehl in Washington Thursday.
Gibson, who spoke twice Saturday, drew most of the crowd’s attention. His speeches came a day after Facebook removed his profile page under its recently expanded “dangerous individuals and organizations” policy.
“They can have my Facebook, I don’t care. You think God doesn’t have bigger plans than Facebook? Come on now,” he told the crowd. “These multi-billion-dollar corporations got nothing on the plan that God has for this country.”
He called on Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler to apologize to Danielson’s family, whose name Gibson said has been slandered. He warned of something “coming to your doorstep” but said to use Danielson’s death to “increase the love in your heart.”
“Hatred is a disease and it will infect you,” he said. “It will do nothing to heal this country, guys.”
Speakers also included Michelle Dawson, a councilor in the rural town of Yacolt. Dawson called Danielson’s death an execution. She said she’s felt anger, but tried to let it go, and led a chant against the media to “get it right.”
“Jay was not a white supremacist. Jay was not a fascist. Jay was a proud American,” she said.
Many in the crowd declined to speak to OPB. Many who did came from less metropolitan parts of Southwest Washington and Oregon, such as Longview, Washington, and Oregon City.
Dawn Fitzpatrick, of Damascus, Oregon, participated in the pro-Trump caravan the night Danielson died. She said she attended Saturday’s Vancouver gathering to echo Danielson’s support of the Trump administration, and she blamed leadership in Portland and Oregon for the violence.
“Our governor isn’t doing anything. The mayor of Portland isn’t doing anything. He has to move out of his apartment because his neighbors are threatened, because they tried to burn his house down,” Fitzpatrick said. “He’s not their friend either.”
Kendra Weisner said she felt the isolation created by the coronavirus pandemic factors into the high tensions.
“I think it has a lot to do with it,” she said. “I think if we can get back to normal, that’s probably he first step, being with our community. We’re disconnected through social media, and we’re forgetting each other’s humanity.”
“We really just need to get back together,” she said.