Portland rallies get bomb-sniffing dogs, weapons checkpoints
(CNN) — Dueling political rallies took place on the streets of downtown Portland on Saturday, and police braced for potential violence by telling people not to bring weapons and warning that checkpoints and bomb-sniffing dogs would be on hand.
“There will be a significant law enforcement presence in the area of the demonstration due to past threats and acts of violence,” an online statement from the Portland Police Bureau said. “Persons attending any of the events should not bring any weapons or items that can be used as weapons to any of the events.”
The precautions came as the group Patriot Prayer USA reportedly planned to hold a rally that drew opposition. Large groups of protesters and counterprotesters gathered on opposite sides of a downtown street, waving signs and banners. People on both sides hurled insults at each other.
Demonstrators on one side chanted “USA! USA!” and said the Pledge of Allegiance, while the other side countered with a chant that included the line “fascists retreat.”
Lines of Portland police wearing protective helmets and vests kept the two sides separated.
The organizer of Patriot Prayer, Joey Gibson, has described his ideology as libertarian, not alt-right. The two sides have clashed before in Portland, known for its strongly liberal politics.
Four people were arrested in early June when Patriot Prayer held a “Freedom March” downtown and a counterrally was held in the same area. The competing demonstrations escalated into fights and people throwing fireworks, rocks and bottles at each other.
More than a dozen people were arrested during dueling protests in June 2017, when hundreds of supporters of President Donald Trump converged downtown for an event billed as a “Trump Free Speech” rally. They were opposed by a mixed group of counterprotesters who viewed the rally as an implicit endorsement of racism, given its close timing to a racially charged stabbing in Portland the prior month.
Gibson told CNN at the time that the rally was planned before the stabbings and his group had nothing to with the suspect in the killings.
Only weeks before the rally, two men were killed as they tried to defend two Muslim women from what police described as a barrage of hate speech. A suspect was arrested and faces trial.