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Mayor Ted Wheeler: “Our city is in mourning, our community’s anger is real and the timing and subject of these events can only exacerbate an already difficult situation.”
With Portland, Oregon, still in shock from Friday’s stabbing deaths of two men who intervened in a volatile situation where a man identified as a local white supremacist started verbally harassing an African-American woman and a friend who was wearing a hijab on a MAX light-rail train, Mayor Ted Wheeler has asked the federal government to intervene and cancel a planned “Trump Free Speech Rally” and urged organizers to keep their supporters out of Oregon’s largest city.
On Monday, the mayor called on the federal government to revoke the permit it has granted for the June 4 event on Terry Schrunk Plaza, a downtown park adjacent to the Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building. A local “March Against Sharia” has been planned for June 10 and Wheeler has also called on the feds to not grant a permit for that event.
“Our city is in mourning, our community’s anger is real and the timing and subject of these events can only exacerbate an already difficult situation,” the mayor said in a statement. “There is never a place for bigotry or hatred in our community, and especially not now.”
Following the attack, Jeremy Christian, a 35-year-old Portland resident, was arrested by the Portland Police Bureau and charged with two counts of aggravated murder and intimidation in the second degree, and one count each of attempted murder and being a felon in possession of a restricted weapon.
According to a cellphone video obtained by KATU-TV, the day before the attack, a man who appeared to be Christian ranted for about 15 minutes the day before the attack in a tirade “littered with curse words and hateful language toward multiple religions.”
Wheeler confirmed in his statement that the city has not granted any permits to the protesters for spaces it controls. The federal government has jurisdiction over Schrunk Plaza and Wheeler said that it’s the city’s understanding that the feds have OK’d the June 4 event.
Even before the Friday’s deadly attack, Portland officials have been on edge as tensions between protesters of opposite ideologies have clashed in the city since President Trump’s election.
On one side is an ad-hoc crowd of militant leftists—including anarchists, socialists and communists—who cast themselves as an anti-fascist front, or "antifa." They often dress in black clothing and ski masks, an unofficial uniform borrowed from an anarchist subculture often loosely described as the "black bloc."
On the other side is antifa's political opposite: a coalition of white supremacists, anti-government militia groups and online agitators known as the "alt-right."
One of the two men killed on the MAX light-rail train on Friday was a 53-year-old Portland Bureau of Development Services technician and Army veteran, Ricky Best, who leaves behind a wife and four children.
“He stood up for two young women and others he didn't even know—all because he wanted to help,” City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly said in a statement. "Losing a colleague is hard. Losing someone under these circumstances makes it even worse. We are very saddened at the loss of Rick and we will remember him fondly as we move forward.''
The other man killed was 23-year-old Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche.
Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.