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Far-right leader wants Portland mayor to apologize for ‘culture of lawlessness’

Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson speaks in Vancouver, Wash., at a memorial for slain follower Aaron "Jay" Danielson.
Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson speaks in Vancouver, Wash., at a memorial Saturday for slain follower Aaron “Jay” Danielson.
(Richard Read / Los Angeles Times)

As social justice activists prepared Saturday for the 100th consecutive day of protests in Portland, Ore., the leader of a far-right organization called on the city’s mayor to apologize for “a culture of lawlessness” that he said resulted in the death of one of his followers last weekend.

Joey Gibson, founder of Patriot Prayer, a local group considered an extremist organization by the Southern Poverty Law Center, spoke at a memorial gathering just north of Portland in Vancouver, Wash., for Aaron “Jay” Danielson, who died in a shooting Aug. 29. Gibson also called on Oregon’s governor to apologize for calling Danielson a white supremacist.

Michael Forest Reinoehl, a self-described antifascist who had been providing security for protesters who have gathered nightly since the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25, was accused of shooting Danielson, 39.

Reinoehl, who had a Black Lives Matter raised-fist tattoo on his neck, died Thursday in a hail of gunfire as members of a federal fugitive task force confronted him in Lacey, Wash. Court documents seeking his arrest described both Danielson and Reinoehl as carrying firearms at the time of the shooting in Portland.

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On Saturday night, in apparent reference to federal agents’ killing of Reinoehl, President Trump, who earlier offered excuses for the actions of the firearm-toting 17-year-old accused of killing of two Black Lives Matters protesters during a demonstration in Kenosha, Wis., tweeted, “Congratulations to the U.S. Marshals on a job well done in Portland. LAW & ORDER!”

The marshals actually shot Reinoehl dead 120 miles north of Portland, near the Washington town of Lacey.

On Thursday night, in a tweet apparently sent after the suspect was killed, Trump tweeted criticism of Portland police for not arresting him. “Everybody knows who this thug is,” Trump wrote. “No wonder Portland is going to hell!”

Meanwhile, on Saturday night, Portland officers blocked hundreds of protesters who tried to march to demonstrate at a police precinct building, ordering them to return to a city park where they had initially assembled. Saying that protesters had thrown fire bombs at them, police declared the assembly a riot and unleashed tear gas and impact munitions, to be met with volleys of commercial fireworks.

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Gibson spoke earlier Saturday as activists prepared for their nightly rally and march. Members of Black Lives Matter and other groups demand deep cuts or dissolution of the Portland Police Bureau; the City Council has trimmed the budget and instituted limited reforms.

Months of clashes between protesters and police — and for a time, federal agents blamed by city and state officials for making the violence worse — have outraged Trump and his followers who say Portland has descended into anarchy. Trump supporters organized a caravan of trucks Aug. 29, some of which drove into the city’s downtown, their occupants firing paintballs and mace at left-wing protesters, who threw objects back at them and tried to block vehicles.

The shooting took place on a largely quiet street in the wake of the protest and counterprotest.

Gibson told more than 300 people, some standing by with assault rifles, who gathered at the memorial beneath tall cedars in a Vancouver city park that he didn’t want to see anyone commit violence in retribution for Danielson’s death.

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But Gibson had blunt words regarding Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, both Democrats.

“Because of his policies, Jay was murdered,” he said of Wheeler, adding that city leaders had failed to crack down on protesters. “He’s built a city of lawlessness; they’ve built a culture of lawlessness; they’ve allowed them to get away with whatever they want.”

He said of Brown: “The way that she talked about Jay is a million times harder than anything that she ever said about the people rioting in Portland every single day.”

Asked for a response, Tim Becker, a spokesman for Wheeler, said in a statement that “lawlessness has never been acceptable in our city. We cannot truly move on together and make the positive changes we want to see until the violence is stopped.”

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In a statement Friday, Brown called for an end to the violence in Portland. “The only way through this is if we all work together,” she said.

In Portland, south across the Columbia River from the Vancouver memorial, Black Lives Matter activists and supporters gathered in a city park Saturday afternoon for talks and music.

Among them was John Sullivan, 39, an activist from Salt Lake City who said he had come to take part in a few days of demonstrations including the 100th nightly protest.

“We’ve got to support each other in different regions to push a larger message, that is to stop the brutality and killing of unarmed Black people,” he said. “That’s how you bring change nationally.”

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Sullivan, who is Black, said he had started a group called Insurgents USA, some of whose 150 members openly carry semiautomatic rifles at rallies in Utah — just as members of far-right organizations do.

“You’re now carrying a gun, and you can speak their language,” Sullivan said. “And they’re less likely to shoot at you, because you can shoot back.”

Sullivan added that he had not brought his AR-15 to Oregon, and said that while he had worn his protective vest, he left its ceramic armor plates at home because they would have been too heavy to carry on the flight to Portland.


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