Armed with rifles, pistols, knives and clubs, the far-right demonstrators at one point charged into a smaller group of liberal counterprotesters, knocking at least one activist to the ground.
The event’s organizers said their “Oregon For Trump 2020 Labor Day Cruise Rally” was designed to show support for the president, following weeks of protests and violent clashes between protesters and police, as well as between protesters and pro-Trump counterprotesters in downtown Portland.
The crowd, which initially gathered in a community college parking lot in Oregon City, Ore., about 30 minutes from downtown Portland, included armed people wearing bulletproof vests or shirts bearing the name of Aaron “Jay” Danielson, the slain supporter of the far-right group Patriot Prayer. There were also families with young children and adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory. Some identified themselves as members of the Proud Boys, a self-identified western chauvinist group that the FBI has said has ties to white nationalism.
The rally’s organizers wrote on Facebook that the caravan would not enter Multnomah County, where Portland is located, to keep its participants safe. At a similar rally last weekend, drivers deviated from the route and entered downtown Portland, where a rally participant, Danielson, was shot and killed.
The Portland rally caps a holiday weekend that saw fresh protests and political demonstrations erupt in cities nationwide, some of which became violent on Friday and Saturday. By end of the weekend, the number of protesters in many cities had dwindled, with only scattered clashes between demonstrators and police.
Still, President Trump spent part of his Labor Day lashing out at racial justice demonstrators and elected officials in Portland, as well as in New York and Rochester, N.Y., where tensions had been running high after a video surfaced last week showing a fatal encounter between police and a Black man who had been suffering a mental health crisis.
“Rochester N.Y., Brooklyn N.Y., Portland – All had bad nights, all weakly run by Radical Left Democrat Governors and Mayors! Get the picture?” Trump said on Twitter. At a news conference later in the day at the White House, Trump said local police should seek “retribution” against unruly protesters who throw objects at them.
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren (D) responded by urging residents in her town to ignore Trump, accusing him of trying to “incite people” to further his own election-year political ambitions.
On Monday in Portland, the mood among Trump supporters gathered in the parking lot was, in part, celebratory and festive. Some Trump supporters grilled hot dogs, and women sported bikini tops. But some drivers had also taped over their license plates to conceal their identities, and others had painted Danielson’s name on their car windows.
Local police, who protesters have repeatedly criticized as being too cozy with right-wing activists, helped guide traffic. Organizers said they planned to drive north on the interstate to a certain point, where police vehicles would block the street for drivers to turn around. A group of Proud Boys planned to drive ahead to Salem, where liberal protesters were also beginning to gather on Monday evening.
One 47-year-old Portland resident who joined the “cruise rally” Monday said she had grown even more resolute in her support for the president after someone dropped objects onto her car windshield when she and her husband drove into Portland during last weekend’s pro-Trump caravan, and someone else hurled a profane insult at her.
The woman, who gave her name only as Kim because she said she feared she could be targeted by left-wing protesters after the slaying of Danielson, had arrived at the rally in a gray Dodge truck, its flatbed outfitted with two American flags, a thin blue line flag to show support for the police, and a Trump flag.
“We are all going to be peaceful,” she said. “If they want to keep being violent and lie about us, we’ll just get more and more patriots out here.”
But in Salem, about 100 pro-Trump protesters quickly became confrontational. They unfurled a large American flag on the steps of the capitol, rousing the crowd to shout the Pledge of Allegiance and chant, “Whose flag? Our flag!” Then they charged into a small crowd of leftist protesters, chasing them through a plaza. One activist was knocked to the ground before police intervened.
“Go back to your side,” an officer shouted.
“This is America,” a Trump supporter responded.
“You’re right, but there’s no point to it, go back over there now,” the officer said.
Black Lives Matter protesters also planned demonstrations in Portland on Monday afternoon. Protests the previous night were relatively subdued, as about a hundred demonstrators gathered outside a police precinct to burn several mattresses, an activity that nonetheless has alarmed some residents and city officials for its…
Read More: Portland protests: Pro-Trump rally convenes