PORTLAND, Oregon — The emotional wounds from the deadly stabbing on a Portland train have yet to heal and tensions continue building up in the city.
Residents fear there will be violence Sunday when supporters of President Donald Trump and counter-protesters hold four rallies within earshot of each other.
“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 with “what would best be characterized as hate speech toward a variety of ethnicities and religions,” Portland police said.
Christian is facing several 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.
When he was arraigned Tuesday, he yelled as he walked into the courtroom, saying: “Get out if you don’t like free speech!” and “You call it terrorism; I call it patriotism. You hear me? Die.”
Some of the groups holding rallies Sunday showed animosity and threatened each other online last week. Those tensions sent police on high alert and prompted the mayor to take action.
Last week, Mayor Ted Wheeler requested the federal government to revoke the permit for a pro-Trump group called Patriot Prayer. Federal officials declined his request saying the permit was lawfully obtained and there was no basis to revoke it.
“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 their own security to make sure his people stay in line.
A ‘robust’ police presence
Those attending the four demonstrations — held simultaneously or within hours of each other — at City Hall and parks across the street will see a “robust law enforcement presence,” officials said.
“We’re going to have the groups come downtown and do our best to keep them separated,” Portland police chief Mike 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.
Here are the times, all local, set for the rallies:
Defend Portland! No Nazis On Our Streets! at Chapman Square, noon.
Portland Stands United Against Hate, at City Hall, 12:30 p.m..
Fascists Out of Portland!, at Schrunk Plaza, 12:30 p.m.
The Trump Free Speech Rally, at Schrunk Plaza, 2 p.m.