PORTLAND—Hundreds of Trump supporters, some of them armed, converged on Portland late Saturday and faced off against anti-racist protesters as part of a “cruise rally” that resulted in a spate of violent clashes and at least one fatal shooting.
The shooting took place at 8:46pm, just five blocks south of the Multnomah County Justice Center. Portland Police said officers “heard sounds of gunfire” and rushed to the scene, responding “within a minute.” Graphic images taken by a local freelance photographer captured the scene, as medics in bulletproof vests tried to save the man. But he did not survive.
The police are investigating the killing as a homicide, but declined to name either a suspect in the slaying or the victim. Photographs of the man after he was shot showed he was wearing a hat with the logo of Patriot Prayer, a far-right group based in Oregon.
The event, held as the city enters its third month of protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, was ostensibly meant to counter the Black Lives Matter demonstrations that have been sweeping the nation and have at times been marred by violence. But the parade appeared to only fan the flames, just hours after the latest night of demonstrations in the city ended with a fire set outside a police union building and several arrests.
By late Saturday, police made several more arrests as fights broke out between anti-racist protesters and members of the pro-Trump caravan.
The fatal shooting happened in the evening. Kevin Escobar, a counter-protester who witnessed the shooting, told The Daily Beast there was “a commotion in front of a car” before two shots rang out.
“I saw a body on the ground, just the legs. It looked like they weren’t moving,” he said.
Another man who didn’t want to be named said he was driving south when, “I heard two shots and saw a person fall. Their body fell right there… I heard two shots, and boom.”
Police blocked off the area to tend to the victim; they said the shooting appeared to be unrelated to the protest. The sobering scene did nothing to rein in the chaos, however, and fights continued to rage throughout the area.
Black Lives Matter protesters lined the sidewalks and stood in the streets while Trump supporters streamed through the city waving giant Trump 2020 flags and shouting. Members of the MAGA parade were seen deploying pepper spray and shooting paintballs at counter-protesters standing along the streets. A man in a white truck with Trump flags pointed a firearm at counter-protesters through his window after his car was pelted with eggs.
Joey Gibson, the leader of the far-right group Patriot Prayer, showed up and was met by a crowd screaming “Black lives matter” that chased him out of the area. He fled into a nearby gas station and took refuge there until police intervened.
The pro-Trump caravan was met with some resistance as it made its way through the city’s streets, with residents banding together to block the procession. Several drivers not involved with the caravan also reportedly stopped their vehicles in the middle of roads to stop the procession from getting through. At least one member of the caravan was seen driving through protesters who tried to block his way.
Prior to the caravan’s arrival, sporadic fights broke out between Trump supporters and anti-racist demonstrators outside the Clackamas Town Center, where at least 600 vehicles had gathered in the parking lot ahead of the planned “cruise” through Portland. Members of the far-right Three Percenters were reportedly spotted in the crowd holding paintball guns as organizers delivered speeches to honor Trump, whom they described as “our great president.”
The rally was described by organizers as a “concealed carry” event but some participants were reportedly displaying weapons.
The caravan’s arrival in Portland, which has been the epicenter of anti-racism and police brutality protests in recent months, came just a day after Mayor Ted Wheeler sent President Trump a scathing open letter demanding the president keep his “politics of division and demagoguery” out of the city.
Trump—who has repeatedly invoked Portland to fear-monger about the “rioting, looting, arson, and violence” he claims awaits the nation if his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, wins the presidential election—sent federal agents into the city in July and has taunted his critics with threats to do so again.