Hundreds 'Stand for LOve' in downtown Lake Oswego
Editor's note: This story is just part of The Review's coverage of dueling political rallies in Lake Oswego on Saturday. For more on the day's events, also see "Trump supporters, protesters clash in Lake Oswego" at www.lakeoswegoreview.com.
Despite bouts of hail, wind, rain and a brief visit by masked protesters, a crowd of about 300 "Stand for LOve" supporters gathered in Millennium Plaza Park on Saturday and then lined the west side of State Street to show "what Lake Oswego is all about."
"We stand together in love and justice for all," said Lisa Ortiz of Independents for Progressive Action, one of the rally's organizers.
Ortiz was one of the first participants to arrive in the park, standing in the rain with a group of men and women wearing knitted pink hats.
"We want people to know that Lake Oswego is not a place that embraces hate," she said.
Also there early: Mary Crabtree of Lake Oswego, who said she and her husband Terry were "concerned about our grandchildren's future and about what could happen if people stop paying attention"; and a significant police presence, including six motorcycle officers from the Portland Police Bureau.
"We came early to check out the area and were surprised by how beautiful Lake Oswego is," Officer Bill Balzer said. "Imagine: parks with no trash and no transients."
Stand for LOve was organized as a response to a 'March 4 Trump' rally planned for the same time in George Rogers Park. In addition to Independents for Progressive Action, the counter-rally was organized by Grassroots Impact, Direct Action Alliance, Willamette Women Democrats, Oregon Students Empowered and other groups.
A "Lake Oswego LOve-In," created by Erin Lee and other local residents, was also part of the Millennium Plaza Park gathering.
Attendees at the morning rally expressed fear and anxiety about what they see as a rise in hatred across the United States. One of the attendees, 61-year-old Cherie Lingelback of West Linn, said she came to the rally because she has multi-racial grandchildren and fears for their safety.
"I'm concerned about the rise of hate crime," she said, referring specifically to the racist graffiti discovered last week in three bathrooms at Lake Oswego High School. "I feel like Trump has inspired this national hidden bigotry that's coming to the surface."
Portland resident Marian Phenimore described the Trump administration as a "regime."
"Trump is acting like a dictator," she said. "He doesn't respect the levels of government."
Direct Action Alliance organizer Jacob Bureros, who was one of the first to propose a protest to counter the Trump rally, was among about a half-dozen speakers who addressed the crowd.
"Lake Oswego is very white, but Lake Oswego isn't going to be proud of that or to hide from that. Lake Oswego is a welcoming community," Bureros said to cheers. "This is an inclusive event. This is about Lake Oswego."
As he spoke, Lake Oswego resident Carol Radich approached him and whispered something into his ear, pointing in the direction of a group of people wearing ski masks and bandanas over their faces who had just made their way through the crowd.
"No, we are welcoming the folks with the black masks," Bureros said into the megaphone, apparently responding to Radich. "They are here because they stand with us."
A man in the crowd then asked, "What are the masks about?"
Bureros explained that those in masks were trying to hide their identifies, not to start trouble but because they feared exposing their identities to law enforcement.
"They have been harassed by police," he said to an increasingly tense crowd. "In Portland — and people of color know this — the police have many times in the past come out and actually targeted people who have been in rallies before."
After a pause, someone shouted, "Then we accept you," leading off a round of chants that seemed to dissipate the crowd's anxiety.
Radich, who is 71 and lives blocks from Millennium Plaza Park, said she was concerned about the masked group's intentions.
"The thing I want the least today is any anarchy or destruction. We want it totally to be peaceful," she said. "If they have a valid reason, OK, but it just looks threatening."
Organizers insisted that they were hoping to avoid any confrontation on Saturday, even as the crowd dispersed from Millennium Plaza Park and headed to State Street. There, they planned to line sidewalks on the west side of the street as the March 4 Trump walked past.
From about noon to 1:30 p.m., the stretch of State Street between Leonard Street and Sundeleaf Plaza was a flurry of neon pink hats, similar to those worn at recent Women's Marches across the country, and signs that read "Nasty Women Get Stuff Done," "All are loved" and "Not My Czar," among other things.
Amid the crowd, pockets of chants such as "Love trumps hate" and "Show me what democracy looks like — this is what democracy looks like" came in waves.
At around 2 p.m., the "Stand For LOve" crowd began to disperse and headed back to Millennium Plaza Park for a second round of speeches— only to hear cries of "They're coming" from the area around the plaza stairs. There, a dozen or so Trump supporters confronted a similar-size crowd of masked protesters, who attempted to block the gates separating the train tracks from the stairs leading to the upper park.
Bob Stowell, a 76-year-old West Linn resident who had an oxygen tank with him, tried to help block the Trump group from crossing at the gate and was overcome. He was transported by ambulance to a local hospital.
Trump supporters and some protesters remained in the lower part of the park for a while, surrounded by a heavy police presence, and continued to taunt each other. One man burned an American flag as others sang a butchered version of "America the Beautiful."
Police were successful in keeping both sides apart, though. And by 2:30 p.m., only police officers and a handful of people from each side remained.
Among the last to leave: Zach Woltersdorf and his three teenage daughters — Esther, Lydia and Keziah — who had traveled from La Center, Wash., to support Trump.
"I wanted them to see democracy in action," Woltersdorf said. "And for the most part, it's been good. I'm glad they got a chance to see both sides speak their mind."
Esther said her dad had given the girls one piece of advice before they got to Lake Oswego: "Stay close to each other, and watch your backs." It probably helped that Woltersdorf is 6-foot-7 and weighs about 300 pounds.
"The protesters don't know that I'm just a gentle teddy bear," Woltersdorf said. "But we do," the girls said in unison before heading for home.
Meanwhile, a handful of people lingered in the upper park, listening to the last few speakers. There, Bureros reflected on the day.
"The LOPD did not show up in riot gear," he said. "They treated us like community, not like rioters. And that's why there was no riot. The police in Portland could learn something from that. A big shout-out to the LOPD."