Portland braced itself Sunday for a pro-Trump “free speech rally” and counter-protests that were set to confront each other on the city’s streets. The rally comes after two men were killed defending a muslim women from abuse on May 26.
The planned rally, called the “The Trump rally for free speech,” has been organized by a loose coalition of right-wing groups who have come together through the internet under the alt-right banner. The demonstration is expected bring out left-wing protesters, too. Police say they’ve been alerted to multiple “online threats of violence,” and will be stationed in riot gear along the protest route.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler tried unsuccessfully to get federal authorities to rescind a permit for the protest over concerns that the rally would create unrest in the wake of the killings last week in the city. The FBI is investigating the murder as a hate crime.
A 35-year-old man, Jeremy Christian, was arrested and charged last week for murdering two men in Portland who were defending two teenage women from racist taunts. Christian has been photographed making Nazi salutes. At his arraignment, he yelled out, “Free speech or die, Portland.”
The day before the event, banners reading “Goodnight Alt-Right” appeared, hanging from freeway overpasses around the city.
Joey Gibson, a pro-Trump video blogger from Vancouver who organized the rally, has arranged for private security to accompany his supporters, according to local media. The security team, he says, includes about 50 to 60 private individuals, some of with military experience.
The Portland Police Bureau promised a strong presence Sunday. Protesters with weapons, they said, would face arrest, according to Reuters.
As of Sunday afternoon, about 500 people had said they would attend the event on Facebook.