PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon State Police will return to Portland to help local authorities after the fatal shooting of a man following clashes between President Donald Trump supporters and counter-protesters that led to an argument between the president and the city’s mayor over who was to blame for the violence.
On Saturday evening a caravan of about 600 vehicles packed with Trump supporters drove through the liberal city and was met with counterprotesters.
Skirmishes broke out and, about 15 minutes after the caravan left the city, a supporter of the right-wing group Patriot Prayer was fatally shot.
The circumstances of the shooting remain unclear. Video from the city shows sporadic fighting between the groups, with Trump supporters firing paintball pellets at opponents and using bear spray as counterprotesters threw things at the Trump caravan.
The man killed was a member of Patriot Prayer, a right-wing group whose members have frequently clashed with protesters in Portland in the past, its founder, Joey Gibson, said Sunday.
He identified the victim as Aaron “Jay” Danielson and called him a “good friend,” but provided no details. Danielson apparently also went by the name Jay Bishop, according to Patriot Prayer’s Facebook page.
The Washington state-based group doesn't have a significant national footprint but is well known in the Pacific Northwest. Gibson, a political activist and one-time Senate candidate, founded it in 2016 and its supporters have held many rallies in Portland since the election of President Donald Trump.
In response to the deadly incident this weekend, President Trump unleashed a flurry of tweets and retweets. Trump praised the caravan participants as “GREAT PATRIOTS!” and retweeted what appeared to be the dead man’s name along with a message to “Rest in peace.”
Trump also retweeted those who blamed the city’s Democratic mayor for the death.
“The people of Portland, like all other cities & parts of our great Country, want Law & Order,” Trump wrote Sunday. “The Radical Left Democrat Mayors, like the dummy running Portland, or the guy right now in his basement unwilling to lead or even speak out against crime, will never be able to do it!”
Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden responded to the recent violence in Portland and the president's statement by saying; “He may think that war in our streets is good for his reelection chances, but that is not presidential leadership — or even basic human compassion.” Biden said he “unequivocally” condemned violence on all sides, while accusing Trump of “recklessly encouraging” it.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, a Democrat, blamed Trump for the tensions during a press conference on Sunday updating the situation.
“Do you seriously wonder, Mr. President, why this is the first time in decades that America has seen this level of violence?” he asked at a televised news conference. “It’s you who have created the hate and the division.
“That’s classic Trump. Mr. President, how can you think that a comment like that, if you’re watching this, is in any way helpful? It’s an aggressive stance, it is not collaborative. I certainly reached out, I believe in a collaborative manner, by saying earlier that you need to do your part and I need to do my part and then we both need to be held accountable,” Wheeler said.
“Let’s work together...Why don’t we try that for a change?” Wheeler asked.
Late Sunday, Gov. Kate Brown released details of a plan to address the violence while protecting free speech. She said the district attorney’s office will prosecute serious criminal offenses and the sheriff’s office will work with other agencies to hold people arrested for violent behavior and ensure there is adequate jail space.
Also, Brown said State Police will return to Portland to help local police, and nearby law enforcement agencies will also be asked to assist.
“We all must come together – elected officials, community leaders, all of us – to stop the cycle of violence,” the Democrat said in a statement.