Several thousand people are expected to rally in Portland, Oregon on Saturday night in support of President Donald Trump in an event organized by the Proud Boys.
According to the Associated Press, the Proud Boys, which is labeled a right-wing group, described the rally as a free speech event to support Trump and the police, support law and order and to condemn anti-fascists, “domestic terrorism” and “violent gangs of rioting felons.”
The rally, avowing support for police and law and enforcement, comes days after a Wednesday grand jury decision in Kentucky, in which charges were not brought against officers for the March killing of Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was shot by police serving a warrant on her home. Investigations revealed Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, admitted to hearing knocking at the door and firing at the police officers in what he said was self-defense. As police returned fire, Taylor was shot and killed. One officer was charged with wanton endangerment over allegations his gunshots endangered neighboring homes, but no officers were charged specifically for Taylor’s death.
Within hours of the grand jury decision on Wednesday, rioting began in Louisville, Kentucky and two Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) officers were injured by gunfire.
The planned Portland rally, organized with the stated intent to show support for police, also comes as Portland has dealt with anti-police sentiment of its own. Portland has had numerous instances of rioting throughout the summer, amid unrest over the death of a black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis police custody. In one instance over the summer, rioters set fires in a Portland police union building before they were dispersed.
Events organized in Portland by the Proud Boys and other right-wing groups like Patriot Prayer, have resulted in violent clashes with left-wing counter demonstrators. In one Aug. 29 pro-Trump rally, a rallyer was fatally shot. Police quickly came to suspect Michael Rienhoel in the fatal shooting. Rienhoel, in a June social media post said, “I am 100 % ANTIFA all the way!” describing support for the left-wing political movement.
Democratic Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Friday said she was sending state troopers to help support Portland police, in anticipation of more potential violent clashes between opposing political movements. The state police will reportedly form a unified command structure with local law enforcement, which according to the AP, will allow the joint police response to use tear gas as a crowd-control measure, sidestepping the city’s ban on the crowd-control measure.
Brown also warned of the potential for violence, but appeared to suggest the problem was attributable mostly to the right-wing Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer groups.
“The Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer groups have come time and time again looking for a fight, and the results are always tragic. Let me be perfectly clear, we will not tolerate any type of violence this weekend,” Brown said. “Left, right or center, violence is never a path towards meaningful change.”
Police have reportedly canceled all scheduled days off for officers Saturday and are reportedly preparing for ways to keep opposing protest groups separated during the Saturday rally.
Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell said “We ask that you come peacefully and engage in your free speech peacefully. It’s okay for us to disagree about things. But at the end of the day, doing so peacefully, letting people exercise their rights safely is very important. So that’s my ask the folks who are attending.”