It was supposed to be the annual Rose Parade that shut down 82nd Avenue in Northeast Portland on Saturday. Instead, critics and supporters of President Donald Trump took to the streets.
Caravans of Portland Police officers in full riot gear rode alongside the dueling protests. Trump supporters were separated from antifa counterprotesters, as they marched on separate sides of 82nd Avenue.
For the past decade, East Portlanders have gathered to celebrate the 82nd Avenue of Roses Parade. But after organizers received a threatening email directed at the Multnomah County Republican Party, the parade was cancelled outright, prompting conservative groups to protest what they saw as an attack on free speech.
The conservative Vancouver, Washington-based group Patriot Prayer organized the march.
Leader and right-wing vlogger Joey Gibson said his group has been visiting liberal cities along the West Coast, most recently a Trump protest in Berkeley, California.
“They shut down the whole parade, but we still marched. We still came down here,” Gibson said. “Nothing’s going to stop us. The threats, the intimidation, the name-calling — none of it.”
Gibson said he’s been called a racist and a fascist countless times, including Saturday by many of the counterprotesters.
“It’s their inability to have a debate. It’s their inability to stand up for what they believe in,” Gibson said at the end of the march in a Burger King parking lot. “So they just try to knock us down.”
Happy Valley, Oregon, resident Meagan Campbell carried an American flag and was decked out in red, white and blue. Campbell said as a conservative living in liberal Portland, she often feels misunderstood.
“We’re not all members of the KKK and Nazis, you know,” said Campbell. “You can’t safely express conservative opinions in Portland. And if you don’t have an army behind you than bad things are going to happen.”
Residents watched on the sidelines as protesters marched through their neighborhood. Chai Saeliew works at Hong Phat Food Center, a local Asian grocery store. He was sad to hear Saturday’s parade had been canceled.
“It is very disappointing for the kids and the family but what can you do,” Saeliew said.
Helen Eessien was upset by the increased police presence and threats of violence. Her boyfriend owns a fireplace parts business on 82nd Avenue and considers the area her community.
“We come here every day, so it’s really sad to see this,” Eessien said. “We are supposed to be together, but it’s like we are fighting against each other. This is America—what is going on?”
While the event was largely peaceful, Portland Police said three arrests were made, including 44-year-old Luis Marquez who was charged with disorderly conduct in the second degree and harassment. Police also arrested 19-year-old Zoe McClain and 23-year-old Shayne Sellers. McClain was charged with assaulting a public safety officer, while Sellers was charged with criminal mischief and theft.
Saturday’s parade would have been the 11th annual 82nd Avenue of Roses Parade. The street is home to some of the city’s most diverse and low-income residents. It also has a reputation as a high crime area.
Organizers say the parade represented a way for the community to come together and show neighborhood pride.
“I think it’s done an amazing job of shifting the narrative around 82nd,” said Duncan Hwang, the associate director at APANO, which stands for Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon.
Hwang, who is also a resident in the area, said the cancellation of the parade drew a lot of criticism on a neighborhood Facebook page.
“The parade means many things for many people,” he said. “And the real losers are community members that don’t have this event to look forward to this year.”