One man killed at pro-Trump caravan in downtown Portland

One county official lamented the "self-perpetuating cycle of violence" stoked by the president

Published August 30, 2020 3:35PM (EDT)

PORTLAND, OREGON, USA - AUGUST 29: A BLM protester block Pickup trucks and cars full of flag-waving Donald Trump supporters as they snarl traffic and parade through downtown Portland, Oregon on August 29, 2020. (Photo by John Rudoff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) (John Rudoff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
PORTLAND, OREGON, USA - AUGUST 29: A BLM protester block Pickup trucks and cars full of flag-waving Donald Trump supporters as they snarl traffic and parade through downtown Portland, Oregon on August 29, 2020. (Photo by John Rudoff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) (John Rudoff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

One man was shot and killed as a caravan of President Trump's supporters circulated their way through downtown Portland, Ore., on Saturday evening. 

The New York Times reports that the man who died, who has not been named, was affiliated with Patriot Prayer, and was wearing a hat with the Patriot Prayer insignia. As the Times wrote

The pro-Trump rally drew hundreds of trucks full of supporters into the city. At times, Trump supporters and counterprotesters clashed on the streets, with people shooting paintball guns from the beds of pickup trucks and protesters throwing objects back at them.

A video that purports to be of the shooting, taken from the far side of the street, showed a small group of people in the road outside what appears to be a parking garage. Gunfire erupts, and a man collapses in the street.

The man who was shot and killed was wearing a hat with the insignia of Patriot Prayer, a far-right group based in the Portland area that has clashed with protesters in the past. Joey Gibson, the head of the group, said Sunday he could not share many details but could confirm the man was a good friend and supporter of Patriot Prayer.

President Donald Trump reacted to the killing on Twitter, suggesting the National Guard should be sent in. "Our great National Guard could solve these problems in less than 1 hour. Local authorities must ask before it is too late," he wrote. "People of Portland, and other Democrat run cities, are disgusted with Schumer, Pelosi, and thier [sic] local 'leaders'. They want Law & Order!"

Patriot Prayer has been characterized as a radical right-wing group by media studies professor Gregory Shupak. The group has previously clashed with anti-fascist protesters in Portland. Patriot Prayer's leader has said little to reporters. As the Oregonian wrote

A photo from the scene published by Getty Images showed the man [was was killed] wearing a hat with a Patriot Prayer logo. The far-right group has been at the center of multiple Portland demonstrations that often culminate in violent clashes.

Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson said he had also seen the photo of the man killed. He did not say whether he knew the person.

"I have to figure out what the hell is going on," Gibson said Saturday night, before hanging up.

In their statement about the shooting, the Portland Police Bureau did not release any suspect information and sought help from those who might have witnessed the shooting. 

Since late May, protesters have assembled almost nightly in downtown Portland near the Multnomah County Justice Center to protest against racial injustice and police brutality. Right-wing counter-protesters, including those from Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys, have often met and antagonized the protesters. Last weekend, the local police declined to intervene when Proud Boys and armed militiamen sparred with Black Lives Matter and anti-fascist protesters, resulting in several injuries.

Throughout the nightly protests, law enforcement has fired hundreds of cans of CS tear gas on protesters, on one night gassing the Mayor of Portland as he joined the protest. 

The governor of Oregon has yet to comment on the killing. Deborah Kafoury, the chair of Multnomah County within which Portland is situated, issued a forceful statement defending non-violent anti-racist demonstrators and calling out the intentionally antagonistic behavior of right-wing counter-protesters. 

"We are witnessing the self-perpetuating cycle of violence fueled by white supremacy," Kafoury wrote. "We cannot forget that the protests Portland has seen for more than 90 days began in response to the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who was then the latest victim of a long and horrendous history of police brutality against Black people, itself a feature of the systemic racism that poisons our country."

Kafoury continued

While the overwhelming majority of protestors have engaged in non-violent demonstration to call for police accountability, racial justice and the dismantling of racist institutions, we have also seen instances of interpersonal violence, vandalism and destruction.

Then last night — stoked by a president who has gone out of his way to demonize this city and encourage vigilantism in service to white supremacy and his own fragile ego — armed participants of a pro-Trump caravan terrorized downtown Portland, driving their vehicles and shooting paintballs and pepper spray directly at community members and journalists. They came to create confrontation and were able to do so.

This tragedy will be used to justify escalating violence. It will be used to paint an entire movement with a broad and misleading brush. And sadly, it will be used by the occupant of the White House to deepen divisions and fear. 

Those of us who believe in, and are working toward, a more just and equitable community must take an unequivocal stand against the violence that structural racism inflicts on Black and other people of color, against violence inflicted by police, and against violence between community members. 

By Keith A. Spencer

Keith A. Spencer is a social critic and author. Previously a senior editor at Salon, he writes about capitalism, science, labor and culture, and published a book about how Silicon Valley is destroying the world. Keep up with his writing on TwitterFacebook, or Substack.

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