Portland has denied a permit to the far-right group Proud Boys for a planned rally Saturday in Delta Park, finding that the group’s estimated crowd of 10,000 people exceeds public safety measures in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
The group, which has gained national attention for its heated rhetoric and marches that often devolve into violence, originally planned to hold the rally in downtown’s Terry Schrunk Plaza. The change to the North Portland venue was made, the group said in a statement last week, “to accommodate … a ‘battalion of patriots’ who are ready to exercise their constitutionally protected right to assemble.”
But the city’s Park & Recreation Bureau, in consultation with Mayor Ted Wheeler, found that the group’s large crowd estimate ran counter to safeguards necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19, according to city officials.
The city found the described event would not comply with Oregon Health Authority guidelines regarding the number of people allowed in gatherings under Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s emergency orders and can’t be conducted with proper physical distancing, according to Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who oversees the Parks Bureau.
“We must all do our part to fight the spread of COVID-19 in our community and keep ourselves and each other safe,” Fritz said in a statement. “Events like this are not welcome and are not allowed.”
Mayor Ted Wheeler, who also serves as police commissioner, on Wednesday called the Proud Boys’ plan to assemble at Delta Park “an insult,” noting that the location is the historic Vanport City, which was created as temporary housing for shipworkers and ended up home to many Black residents who were kept out of Portland because of racist real estate practices.
“Intentional or not, these groups choosing Delta Park for this event is an insult,” Wheeler said. “While espousing patriotism and a commitment to peaceful protest, some in these groups and many who associate with them embody and empower racism, intolerance and hate. Those are not Portland values, and they are not welcome. Hate has no home in Portland. Violence has no home in Portland. Anyone intending to intimidate, create fear, commit violence, or spread hate is not welcome here.”
Counter protesters are planning a simultaneous gathering about four miles away at Peninsula Park on Saturday, from noon until 3 p.m.
Tim Crail, Fritz’s chief of staff, said he did not know of any other applications for permits received by the city stemming from the 100-plus consecutive nights of social justice protests that have occurred in the city since shortly after the May 25 death of George Floyd, the Black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.
Mark Ross, a spokesman for the Parks Bureau, said the bureau would not grant a permit for a gathering of more than 50 people under the state’s current COVID-19 safety guidelines. Yet the bureau also doesn’t do enforcement, Ross said.
Enrique Tarrio, international chair of the Proud Boys, said by phone Wednesday afternoon before boarding a plane in Miami that he submitted the permit application to the city of Portland as “a courtesy,” but didn’t expect the city to grant it.
The application said the anticipated crowd would be 10,000 people, with another 10,000 supporters for a total assembly of about 20,000 people, according to the permit application obtained by The Oregonian/OregonLive through a public records request.
On Wednesday, though, Tarrio said he expected more like 800 to 2,000 people might attend the group’s Saturday “End Domestic Terrorism,” demonstration. He said the group
He said he’s holding the rally in Portland to demonstrate against the violence that’s been allowed to occur nightly in the city. He also referenced the Aug. 29 fatal shooting of Patriot Prayer supporter Aaron “Jay” Danielson, a 39-year-old who police say was gunned down in downtown Portland after a pro-Trump car caravan wound through the city. Police say Michael Reinoehl, 48, a self-described antifascist who said he provided security for Black Lives Matter protests, targeted and gunned down Danielson. Reinoehl was later shot and killed by officers in Washington as they moved in to arrest him.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly made exaggerated claims regarding property damage, fires set and serious violence taking place in Portland and elsewhere to bolster his claims that cities led by Democrats have descended into chaos.
Demonstrations have turned violent on some nights, with members of the crowd lobbing fireworks, rocks or other objects at officers stationed outside either police precincts or federal buildings, such as the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement field office in Southwest Portland. Those actions have resulted in officers firing tear gas or impact munitions to disperse crowds, and led to multiple lawsuits against federal officers and the city of Portland. On Sept. 10, Portland’s mayor barred Portland police from using tear gas during protests.
“I have no respect for Ted Wheeler, and I don’t intend to respect his wishes that we’re not welcome in his city,” Tarrio said. “The main reason we’re protesting is him.”
The group’s application said its supporters will gather from noon to 4 p.m. to rally against what they termed “antifa terrorists.”
“We the PEOPLE are tired of incompetent city leadership who neuters police and allows violent gangs of rioting felons to run the streets, burn buildings, throw molotov cocktails/rocks/fireworks/concrete and assault people with impunity,” the application reads.
Counter-protesters are not planning to confront the right-wing rallygoers directly as they’ve routinely done during past demonstrations in Portland. Instead, they are organizing a simultaneous gathering at a different park.
“We always show up to counter hate groups,” said Effie Baum, an organizer with Popular Mobilization, or PopMob. “But we don’t have to let them dictate the terms of that engagement.”
Portland Jobs with Justice, Rose City Antifa and the Portland Democratic Socialists of America are among the other left-wing groups participating in the Peninsula Park event.
Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell, Wheeler and other community leaders have urged calm and have been working with police and other law enforcement agencies to prepare a plan for police enforcement Saturday. Yet Oregon State Police and the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office have expressed reluctance to assist with crowd control in the city, considering the mayor’s ban on Portland police use of tear gas.
“Due to the heightened rhetoric and many recent events where crimes occurred, we are developing a thorough plan to do everything possible to keep everyone safe,” Lovell said in a statement this week. “It is crucial for anyone who plans to attend to refrain from engaging in criminal activity, report dangerous or criminal conduct to the police, and adhere to lawful orders given by public safety officials.”
Wheeler, joined Wednesday by the other members of Portland’s City Council, asked the community to stand together and say, “Hate is not welcome here.”
“Let’s not give them the attention or perhaps even the fight that they’re looking for,” Fritz said at the council meeting.
Later Wednesday, Fritz said that as a retired nurse, she’s particularly concerned about the state’s COVID-19 response, and would not grant a permit for any gathering or rally that draws more than 50 people.
Asked about the nightly mass demonstrations that have occurred in the city’s downtown and elsewhere since late May, Fritz said, “There’s a difference between being asked and denying, and not being asked (for a permit).”
If the Proud Boys gather at Delta Park, she said, “They will be breaking the law,” but she said she wasn’t prepared to discuss what measures would be taken.
Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty said she didn’t want the city to allow the far-right groups into the city.
“That’s what they’re about. They’re about spreading fear, division and hate, and we as Portlanders will not tolerate that,” Hardesty said.
“So if you’re listening, right-wing radicals who think you’re going to come here and just have fun beating up on liberals, we are drawing a line in the sand. You’re not welcome. We don’t want you. And, if you come, we’re going to do everything in our power to make sure you don’t get into the city of Portland.”
Commissioner Chloe Eudaly asked counter-protesters to stay away from the right-wing extremists and “deny them what they want – an audience.”
“This is a publicity stunt. Portland is in the public eye. The president is waiting for footage to bolster his claims of anarchy and of Democratic ineptitude. … Don’t let them use Portland as a backdrop for Trump’s re-election.”
Eudaly said there are other ways to show up and make a difference and work on meaningful police accountability and other social justice reforms.
Also Wednesday, the Legislature’s Black, Indigenous and People of Color Caucus issued a statement that called for counter-demonstrators to stay away from the Proud Boys’ planned rally.
“We are calling on Oregonians who share our goal of ending police brutality and racial injustice to avoid the main demonstration. As we have seen time and again, the hate groups that have organized these rallies are often heavily armed and intend to commit acts of violence. They also use these rallies to drain our resources and gather material to recruit others. Let’s not empower them with our presence.”
The Caucus’ statement added, “The Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer are here to bring violence and spread hate. But we know their agenda and our community will not stand for violence or hate. We will not be intimidated or silenced, but we also will not allow these individuals to sow the chaos and destruction they so desperately seek.”
In its permit application, when asked to describe procedures for crowd control and internal security, Proud Boys wrote: “Will have volunteers ensuring people remain in control, non inflammatory and focused on our event. We will allow police to enter as needed if there is an issue.”
Oregon State Police Supt. Travis Hampton wrote to Portland police that the agency, busy responding to wildfires in the state, has “serious reservations” about helping with crowd control since the city police agency’s use of tear gas is barred.
The state police will offer uniform patrol coverage to aid Portland police in “interdicting the criminal element” before they arrive at events and “maintain a mobile response for anticipated flash points,” Hampton wrote to the bureau. ” We will also make available, if you request, specialized vehicles and armor to aid in officer rescue and the transport of personnel.”
Popular Mobilization, or PopMob, activists also are working to raise donations for the Oregon Justice Resource Center, as a response to the Proud Boys’ planned assembly. “For every person who shows up to join the Proud Boys in their attack on our community and values, we are collecting pledges to counter their hate with support for these vital local efforts,” the group said in a news release this week.
The Police Bureau said its crowd liaison team is working to help event organizers plan safe events. Liaison officers may be contacted at: PPBLiaison@portlandoregon.gov or through the team’s Twitter account: @PPBLiaison.
Oregonian Staff Writer Shane Dixon Kavanaugh contributed to this story.
— Maxine Bernstein
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