Crowds Build In Dueling Protests In Portland A Week After Train Stabbings

PORTLAND, Ore. (CNN) — Tensions continued to build one week after a deadly stabbing in Portland, Oregon, as large crowds gathered downtown Sunday (June 4) for dueling protests.

A heavy police presence of armed officers in tactical gear lined the streets around City Hall as supporters of President Donald Trump and counter-protesters gathered in four scheduled rallies. They carried signs reflecting a variety of causes from “Skinheads against racial prejudice” to “Make America Great Again.”

“We don’t want any fighting,” said Margie Fletcher, the mother of a man wounded last week on a Portland train. “We hope and pray that both sides try to keep in mind that in the big picture it might be easy to forget with all the emotions running high that we all have the same basic needs.”

It has been nine days since Fletcher’s son, Micah, was wounded and two others killed after they tried to defend two Muslim train riders. Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, accosted the women in what Portland police called “hate speech toward a variety of ethnicities and religions.”

Christian faces charges including two counts of aggravated murder, attempted murder, two counts of second-degree intimidation and being a felon in possession of a restricted weapon, police say.

Potential clashes
Signs of animosity among the groups holding rallies began to emerge last week in online forums. The tensions put police on high alert and prompted the mayor to call on the federal government to revoke the permit for a pro-Trump group.

Federal officials declined the request, saying there was no legal basis to revoke the permit for “Patriot Prayer.”

“I’m a strong supporter of the First Amendment no matter what the views are that are being expressed,” Mayor Ted Wheeler told HLN on Friday, “but given the timing of this rally, I believed we had a case to make about the threats to public safety.”

Wheeler also called on protest organizer Joey Gibson to postpone the event. But Gibson told CNN that he hears concerns of violence at every public event he holds.

“Every single time I throw a rally, every single march, it’s the same thing,” he said Wednesday. “That what I’m going to do is dangerous, what I’m going to do is dangerous for the city because we are going to provoke other people to be violent against us.”

It’s not true, he says. His group — which isn’t racist or alt-right, he says — shouldn’t be held responsible for the actions of counter-demonstrators.

He said Patriot Prayer will have its own security to make sure his people stay in line.

A ‘robust’ police presence
Portland Police Chief Mike Marshmann promised a “robust” law enforcement presence.

“We’re going to have the groups come downtown and do our best to keep them separated,” Marshmann said. “Have their events go as planned, and hopefully everybody goes home safe and won’t be injured.”

Authorities warned people coming to the events not to bring weapons or anything that can be perceived as a possible weapon (bats, fireworks, poles, rocks and sticks).

The Patriot Prayer event, called The Trump Free Speech Rally, is being held at Terry D. Schrunk Plaza, which is federal property where guns are barred. Agents from the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Protective Service will be on hand.