Portland, Ore., Had A Long Weekend Of Dueling Protests And Rallies | KGOU
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Portland, Ore., Had A Long Weekend Of Dueling Protests And Rallies

Sep 8, 2020
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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Protests for racial justice in Portland have gone on for more than a hundred days since George Floyd's death. And in recent weeks, there have been some violent confrontations. Over this long Labor Day weekend, Portland has seen dueling protests and rallies. But so far, there have been fewer violent confrontations between far-right and far-left protesters than had been feared. NPR's Martin Kaste joins us now.

Hey, Martin.

MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.

CHANG: All right. So I heard that you attended a Trump rally today, right? What did you see?

KASTE: Yeah. Well, in some ways, this was a pretty typical sort of Trump campaign electioneering event, you know, where they get a lot of trucks to form a caravan, flying the big Trump flags, big U.S. flags. You see - you know, there's the boat version. There's the truck version. This was the truck version coming out of the suburbs of Portland and Oregon City. You know, and they spent the first couple hours just sort of parking all these trucks together in a big parking lot, having speeches, sort of a big rally.

Now, the reason we were paying attention to this, though, is that you may recall last weekend, one of these truck rallies ended towards the end of the day in Portland with violence. People in the trucks - some of the people in the trucks were going after perceived rivals in the Black Lives Matter side. Paintball guns were used, that kind of thing. And it ended up with someone getting shot and killed. Later on, the suspected triggerman in that case was killed by a fugitive - law enforcement fugitive team in Washington state.

- But so all of that made people ask, well, this time around, will that happen again? But the leaders of this time - this truck rally this time said they have no intention of provoking another confrontation. They don't want to risk anyone's lives, and they're going to stay out of the city itself.

CHANG: Well, what's the tone been like among the Trump supporters there, I mean, especially - as you just mentioned, especially after a member of a far-right group, Aaron J. Danielson, was killed last weekend?

KASTE: Well, you get this sense of - there's kind of a tone of defiance among some of the supporters. I think if you listen to a snippet of a speech given by a woman named Betsy Anderson (ph), you'll get a sense of sort of that tone.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BETSY ANDERSON: I am here today removing the Democratic, politically correct duct tape from my mouth. With all the violence, looting and burning of our country's cities, we will rise from the ashes like a phoenix, with stars in our eyes and stripes on our wings, with our unwavering focus to support our president and our country.

KASTE: And we heard a lot of variations on that general theme of sort of exasperation with what they perceive to be sort of violent ongoing protests in, you know, the main city in this state - just sort of frustration, really.

CHANG: Yeah. Well, what about in Portland itself and the groups aligned with the Black Lives Matter protests? What's been the tone there?

KASTE: Well, things were pretty tense on Saturday night. There was one of these walking protests that ended up at a police precinct and a confrontation with riot police. There was at least one suspected Molotov cocktail, or a firebomb, as the police call it, that blew up in the street. Fifty-nine people ended up being arrested.

But then last night - similar situation, but smaller numbers, outside of a precinct again. There, the police were sort of restrained. So were the protesters. They burned a mattress for a little bit, held some speeches, but not the same kind of confrontation. So not clear if they're, you know, holding off, too, or if it was just sort of a, you know, one-of-night-violence situation.

CHANG: Well, as we've said, you know, it's been more than a hundred days of daily protests, often ending in violence. Is there any sense of what the endgame might be?

KASTE: Well, there's definitely a sense of weariness in the metro area. A lot of people just, you know, who aren't involved in either group here are just tired of getting emails from friends and family saying, you know, is Portland still standing? Are you OK? And of course, most of the city is fine. You know, most of life goes on as it does under COVID. There's, you know, kind of a sense that Portland is tired of becoming sort of a tool or - you know, in the larger national campaign, the politics of the country. And there was an editorial today in The Oregonian kind of calling on protesters to just stand down.

CHANG: That is NPR's Martin Kaste.

Thank you, Martin.

KASTE: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.