PORTLAND, OREGON – A man was fatally shot during a night of confrontations between Trump supporters and counterprotesters in Portland, Ore., on Saturday, the latest high-profile incident in a city that has seen nightly demonstrations for three consecutive months. On Sunday, city leaders denounced the violence while President Trump criticized their ability to contain it.
Hundreds of cars participating in a pro-Trump caravan made their way through the city starting late in the afternoon, clashing sporadically with counterprotesters along the route.
Police say they are investigating a shooting that took place shortly before 9 p.m. local time as a homicide.
“It is still early in this investigation, and I ask everyone to give the detectives time to do their important work before drawing conclusions about what took place,” Police Chief Chuck Lovell said in a statement. “This violence is completely unacceptable and we are working diligently to find and apprehend the individual or individuals responsible.”
Participants of the “Trump 2020 Cruise Rally” gathered at the suburban Clackamas Town Center mall earlier in the afternoon before driving into Portland. Posts on the Facebook event page encouraged attendees to carry concealed firearms rather than openly carry firearms, and designated a route on highways outside of downtown Portland.
As many of those cars and pickup trucks strayed from the route and headed downtown, police said, vehicle occupants and pedestrians periodically exchanged words, occasionally broke into fights and got into some minor collisions.
Videos circulating on social media show caravan participants shooting paintballs and pepper spray from their vehicles. In one incident, a car ran over a bicycle, prompting police to investigate. Counterprotesters can be seen yelling at the Trump supporters and, in one case, throwing eggs.
Portland police said they made 10 arrests as a result of the disturbances, most on charges of disorderly conduct.
According to police, officers responded to a shooting downtown at 8:46 p.m. to find a small group gathered around a man who had a gunshot wound in his chest. Medical responders determined that he was deceased.
Oregon Public Broadcasting and other news outlets have reported that the victim was wearing a “Thin Blue Line” patch on his shorts, indicating support for the police, and a hat with the logo of the far-right group “Patriot Prayer.”
OPB reporter Jonathan Levinson told NPR’s Weekend Edition on Sunday that the group often comes to Portland to demonstrate, and has a “reputation for engaging in violence during these protests.”
Police did not release information about the victim or any suspects and asked anyone with relevant information to get in touch.
Protesters have taken to the streets of Portland for nightly demonstrations against racism and police violence since the police shooting of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.
Far-right protesters have emerged on the scene in recent weeks. Last weekend, protesters who had shown up to express support for the police and the president did so wearing body armor and armed with weapons ranging from baseball bats to firearms. Attendants included members of the Proud Boys, a far-right group of self-described “western chauvinists.”
Reaction to the shooting on Sunday was swift, particularly from President Trump, who posted and shared several tweets criticizing the city’s Democratic leadership and calling for federal intervention.
“The big backlash going on in Portland cannot be unexpected after 95 days of watching [an] incompetent Mayor admit that he has no idea what he is doing,” reads one tweet. “The people of Portland won’t put up with no safety any longer. The Mayor is a FOOL. Bring in the National Guard!”
Trump also shared a video on Saturday morning of the caravan heading into Portland, commenting “GREAT PATRIOTS!”
The president invoked the protests in Portland at the Republican National Convention on Thursday, attempting to link “rioting, looting, arson and violence” with Democratic leadership in several cities that have seen protests against racial injustice and police brutality this summer.
On Friday, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler wrote a letter responding to Trump’s repeated offer to send federal law enforcement to the city, writing, “On behalf of the City of Portland: No thanks.”
Wheeler rejected what he called Trump’s “politics of division and demagoguery,” saying that tens of thousands of Portlanders have protested peacefully and anyone who does commit criminal acts will be apprehended and prosecuted.
Wheeler slammed Trump again at a press conference on Sunday afternoon, blaming the president for stoking divisions and hate. He cited the president’s history of derogatory remarks towards Black people, women, disabled people, journalists, Democratic mayors and other “institutions of democracy” as proof.
“You’ve tried to divide us more than any other figure in modern history,” Wheeler said, addressing the president directly. “And now you want me to stop the violence that you helped create.”
Wheeler called on Portlanders to denounce violence and work together to push for concrete reforms. He also urged anyone planning to come into the city to “seek retribution” to stay away.
Also at the press conference, Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell said he could not release additional details to “protect the integrity of the case,” but urged people to refrain from conjecture and jumping to conclusions.
Lovell, along with Wheeler and Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt, called for an end to violence and division, stressing that it takes away from the gains nonviolent protesters are hoping to make.
Trump doubled down on his insults in a series of tweets on Sunday afternoon, including one calling Wheeler a “dummy.”
Earlier on Sunday, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf had also criticized local and state officials’ handling of protests in Portland.
In an appearance on ABC’s This Week, Wolf accused state and local officials of “not allowing law enforcement to do their job and really to bring this violent activity night after night after night to a close.”
Wolf also told CBS’ Face the Nation that local leaders should ask for federal help if they don’t have the “ability or resources” to put an end to violent protest activity.
Wheeler also faced criticism from local progressive and left-wing groups, who called for him to resign on Sunday and blamed the mayor for not taking far-right protest groups seriously enough.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden issued a statement on Sunday afternoon strongly condemning the shooting and slamming Trump for “recklessly encouraging violence.”
“I condemn violence of any kind by anyone, whether on the left or the right,” Biden said. “And I challenge Donald Trump to do the same. It does not matter if you find the political views of your opponents abhorrent, any loss of life is a tragedy.”