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Witnesses say man allegedly threatened Black Lives Matter group after flag debate

COURTESY PHOTO: KANEN MCREYNOLDS - Gresham Police responded in riot gear after an All Lives Matter supporter pulled a gun on a Black Lives Matter group.A man allegedly pulled a gun and threatened Black Lives Matter protestors after two groups squared off Wednesday evening, July 22, over the decision to fly a Black Lives Matter flag at Gresham City Hall.

The man, who was not identified and was not stopped after police became involved, was at Gresham City Hall, 1333 N.W. Eastman Parkway, as part of a "Keep Gresham Sound — Take the BLM flag down" rally hosted by Joe Demers, a Gresham mayoral candidate. A group of Black Lives Matter supporters arrived at the event to counter-protest and ensure no damage was done to the flag.

The two sides initially faced off under the flag pole at City Hall in a relatively peaceful showdown that was limited to rivaling chants, prayers and signs. But things began to devolve as the evening went on, with protestors on both sides becoming more heated in their disagreements.

According to eye witnesses and videos shared on social media, things came to a head as members of the "All Lives Matter" side began using weapons to threaten the Black Lives Matter group. Shemar Lenox, a community activist and leader with the Gresham Standup Movement, said a man was posturing with a knife and a woman was wielding a can of pepper spray.

"We were still being peaceful, but I began to hear people yelling someone had a knife," Lenox said. "Next thing you know I see a dude go to pull a gun out. I thought he was going to start shooting people."

Allegedly a third man arrived to a circle of protestors arguing, and at some point pushed a Black Lives Matter protestor to the ground and pulled out his gun. According to witnesses, fellow "All Lives Matter" protestors kept the man from raising the gun, and ushered him away from the area.

No one was injured during the incident.

"Once the gun got pulled, that is when riot police showed up," Lenox said.

According to Sergeant Thomas Walker, two mobile field force squads were sent to both sides of the disagreement after hearing conflicting reports of weapons in the crowd. The officers wore helmets with masks and had batons.

"We are living in times when things are politically charged, and we want to protect everyone's rights to protest," Walker said. "The tactics and movements we used were to ensure there was no favoritism in our response."

Gresham officers formed a line in front of both the Black Lives Matter Group and the anti-flag protestors. Chief Robin Sells observed the incident and spoke with a few of the activists.

"We weren't there to cause any harm to the property or do anything to the police station," Lenox said. "The police response infuriates me because it shows where they stand — there was no need to be out there facing us down in riot gear and using scare tactics."

No arrests were made during the dueling protests. Police did not speak with the man who allegedly pulled his gun, although they said he may be contacted in the future.

The anti-Black Lives Matter flag rally was hosted to push back against a unanimous Gresham City Council decision to fly the flag outside of City Hall. The clashing protests come at a time when council has doubled down on its support for the movement by extending the flag being flown through August.

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