Mayor Ted Wheeler of Portland, Oregon, called on federal organizers of events planned for June 3 and 10 to cancel their plans voluntarily, while he has asked the federal government to block the events. Wheeler, a Democrat, said that the free speech rallies are inappropriate and potentially dangerous, following an attack last week by a man who has been identified by some in the media as a Nazi sympathizer. On Friday, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, 23, and Ricky John Best, 53, were stabbed to death when they tried to stop Jeremy Joseph Christian from harassing two girls. One of the two teenaged girls is a Muslim who was wearing a hijab, authorities say. Another man who stepped in was critically injured.
Wheeler said he hopes the incident will bring about "changes in the political dialogue in this country." "I am appealing to the organizers of the alt-right demonstrations to CANCEL the events," Portland's mayor said.
President Trump condemned the stabbing in a Twitter post on Monday. "The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable. The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are w/ them."
Wheeler said he appreciated Trump's words. "I hope we rise to the memory of these two gentlemen who lost their lives," the mayor told reporters. "Let's do them honor by standing with them and carrying on their legacy of standing up to hate and bigotry and violence."
The federal government has issued a permit for the June 3 free-speech rally but has not yet given a permit for an event on June 10. The mayor said that “hate speech” is not protected by the Constitution and that he is concerned that rally participants may be "coming to peddle a message of hatred."
In a Twitter post, the ACLU of Oregon stated, in part, "The government cannot revoke or deny a permit based on the viewpoint of the demonstrators. Period."
"We are all free to reject and protest ideas we don't agree with. That is a core, fundamental freedom of the United States," declared the civil rights advocacy group. "If we allow the government to shut down speech for some, we all will pay the price down the line," the ACLU of Oregon said.
A "Trump Free Speech Rally" is scheduled for June 3, and a "March Against Sharia" for June 10th. Both of the events are scheduled for a plaza that is managed by the federal government, which requires permits for demonstrations.
On Twitter, Wheeler wrote, "Our city is in mourning," and added, "Our community's anger is real, and the timing and subject of these events can only exacerbate an already difficult situation."
According to the Facebook page for the "Trump Free Speech Rally," at the rally, "There will be speakers exercising their free speech, live music, flags, and an uplifting experience to bring back strength and courage to those who believe in freedom." the Facebook post for the event says.
Suspect Jeremy Joseph Christian attended a similar rally on April 29 called a 'March for Free Speech' in East Portland, but video recorded that he was ejected by supporters of Donald Trump who were on hand. Police formed a cordon around Christian and escorted him away. He rambled and frequently used racist epithets. His social media accounts show his affiliation with a number of left-wing and nihilist causes, and he also expressed support for Sen. Bernie Sanders -- the Vermont socialist who ran against Hillary Clinton in the primary races last year.
Despite descriptions in the media of Christian as an alt-right racist, at least one acquaintance described her surprise at the moniker. Tomica Clark, one of Christian’s childhood friends, told The Oregonian/OregonLive that she has known Christian since elementary school. Clark said she was surprised to hear people call Christian racist. Clark is black and said Christian had many black friends. "He never disrespected me," Clark said. She added that he apparently changed upon his release from prison. “Prison took the real him away," she said.
A day before the attack, cellphone video confirmed by police shows Christian using expletives as he rants about Muslims, Christians, and Jews on a train. Last Thursday, he threatened to stab the driver of a train, according to an amateur video. He spent time in prison after being convicted of robbery, after holding up employees at a convenience store with a gun in 2002. At one point, he threatens to stab the driver of the train Thursday, according to video from a passenger posted by TV station KOIN. Christian served time in prison time for holding up employees at a convenience store with a gun in 2002, court records show. He went back to the lockup after pleading guilty in 2011 to being a felon in possession of a firearm. Christian was behind bars again in 2013 for violating a condition of his release, according to court records.
Mayor Wheeler did not seek to ban marches on Portland planned by leftists. A self-described "March for Truth" is expected on June 3 as part of a nation-wide anti-capitalist event. An announcement of the rally read: "Join us on June 3rd for a nationwide march against capitalism and the state, we will be joining in on the liberal “March for truth” and show them how to cause some peaceful disruption." The leftists plan to show up at the Terry Schrunk Plaza, which is coincidentally located at the same location as the "Trump Free Speech" rally.
A "March for Truth PDX" is planned for June 3. An announcement for the event read: "A healthy democracy requires an informed electorate, a government with healthy checks and balances, leaders who respect the rule of law . . . and fair elections untainted by partisan bias or foreign influence. Let us peaceably assemble and demand an impartial investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and any ties to Donald Trump, his administration, and associates. Speakers, music! Bring signs, friends, chants! This is a national event. Let’s show the world where Portland, Oregon stands! And organizers are committed to doing everything we can to keep this peaceful!" The announcement betrayed some concern over violence expected at the event. The announcement read: "By choosing to attend this event, you are acknowledging the risks involved, and you are committing to participate nonviolently and in accordance with the law, and to work to de-escalate confrontations with opposing persons or others. You agree (i) not to engage in any act of violence or violation of any applicable law and (ii) to obey the orders of authorized event marshals and law enforcement authorities." The rally is also planned for the Terry D. Schrunk Plaza, where the Trump Free Speech rally is planned.
Yet another group of leftists is planning disruption on June 3 in Portland. A workshop titled "Strategy Games: Group Self Defense in the Streets," is planned for June 3 in Portland, too. "This workshop will focus on how to defend against attacks by large groups of people, how to think strategically in such situations and keep yourself and your friends safe. Attendees will play live action role play of group vs group scenarios and play other educational strategy games." The announcement added: "The event is hosted by long time Portland activists and strategy gaming experts." The training is to be offered at venue provided by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).