A rally this Saturday, planned by the far-right group Patriot Prayer, has been moved to a new location which would allow attendees to carry handguns.
Joey Gibson and his Patriot Prayer group have held repeated rallies in Portland, Oregon over the last year, often clashing with counter-protesters. At one such rally in June, Portland Police were forced to declare a riot as violence broke out between anti-fascists and the Proud Boys, a far-right men’s group who had traveled to Oregon in support of Gibson. Nine people were arrested.
Gibson — who describes himself as a “moderate Libertarian,” according to Portland NBC affiliate KGW — announced on Facebook last week that the location for his August 4 “Freedom March” rally had been set for the Salmon Street Springs water fountain at Tom McCall Waterfront Park. In the past, the group has convened at Terry Schrunk Federal Plaza in downtown Portland, across from city hall.
According to OregonLive, the venue allows attendees to bring handguns, because, although Portland city code prohibits weapons in public parks, “guns carried by those with a valid Oregon concealed handgun license are allowed.” The city is now looking into whether restrictions can be placed on carrying weapons at the waterfront.
Gibson announced that several buses worth of supporters would be coming to Oregon from Vancouver, Washington, including armed security “on each bus that are on call for any sort of emergency situation.” Far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has also said he might attend.
“[We’re going to Portland] to exercise our First Amendment right,” Gibson said on Facebook. “We go there to stand up for the Constitution. We go there to bring light into a city that does not respect people who are different, while they run around and say that we’re bigots.”
Several groups are already planning counter-protests to Gibson’s Saturday rally, with one group saying that it would make “no apologies for the use of force in keeping our communities safe from the scourge of right wing violence.”
A second rally was initially planned for Sunday in Berkeley, California, but it was apparently cancelled due to infighting over the group’s decision to invite the American Guard, a violent white supremacist organization with ties to Soldiers of Odin, an anti-refugee, anti-immigrant group that originated in Finland.
Since the June 30 rally, Patriot Prayer’s rhetoric towards both Portland and counter-protesters has grown steadily more violent, leading some to worry that this Saturday’s rally could see a repeat of Charlottesville, where a woman named Heather Heyer was killed after an attendee at the white supremacist rally drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters.
“There will come a day when antifa will meet their match: about 30 guys or more with AR15s with bump stocks,” one post wrote on Patriot Prayer’s Facebook after the June rally, according to the SPLC. “NOT me, because I don’t condone violence. I’m just laying down a prediction.”