Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler acknowledges he has little ability to stop two planned right-wing protests in Portland in the wake of last week’s TriMet stabbings. But he says he still hopes event organizers will rethink their timing.
“Just because something is constitutional and legal doesn’t make it responsible,” Wheeler told OPB Tuesday. “Given where this city is now, in terms of the mourning we’re going through collectively, the anger that is currently focused on what I would describe as the alt-right, this is not the right time for those groups to come into our community and hold a rally.”
Wheeler has asked the federal government to revoke a permit for a June 4 free-speech rally at Terry Schrunk Plaza, which is federal property, in downtown Portland. He also wants the feds to refuse a permit for a June 10 anti-Muslim rally. The ACLU of Oregon has disagreed with Wheeler’s call, saying it amounts to censorship.
“It has never been my objective to bar anybody from expressing a point of view or infringe on anyone’s First Amendment rights,” the mayor said. “As mayor what I’m left with is the protests and the counter-protests. I’m going to do everything I can to protect the public safety. This is just not the right time to come to Portland to spout bigotry or hatred.”
The mayor said federal officials are unlikely to block the events. He said he’s talked to organizers and possible counter-protestors about how to avoid violence if the rallies do happen.
“This has been a very, very trying time for everybody in the city of Portland,” he said. “Nobody is really immune to what’s going on. We’re all still collectively in shock, we’re still grieving and there’s also a growing sense of anger. That’s why I’m concerned about these events.”
Portland has been rocked by a series of rallies and counter-demonstrations since the election of President Donald Trump last fall. The suspect in the TriMet killings was at one recent protest, where he was seen shouting racist remarks and giving Nazi salutes.