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Mayor, police chief warn potential counter protesters to remain peaceful at July 29 event

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPER KEIZUR - A recent racial justice rally at Gresham City Hall drew counter protesters and city officials want to make sure the rally Wednesday, July 29, remains peaceful.

Gresham's mayor and police chief urged participants in a family-friendly racial justice rally at Gresham City Hall Wednesday evening to remain peaceful.

"We've heard rumors that a potential counter-protest may occur at the same time and place. Community members have expressed fears that these clashing views could result in violence," Gresham Mayor Karylinn Echols said in a statement.

"Our focus tonight (Wednesday, July 29) is to allow all our residents to exercise their right to free speech, in a safe environment, free of violence," Echols said.

The rally is planned from 6-8 p.m. at Gresham City Hall, 1333 N.W. Eastman Parkway. Beyond Black, Gresham Stand Up, Multnomah County Commissioner Lori Stegmann and Gresham City Councilors Eddy Morales, Vince Jones-Dixon and Mario Palmero have said they will participate in the "peaceful family rally."

The organizers asked rally goers to mask up and practice social distancing.

At a recent demonstration for racial justice at Gresham City Hall, witnesses said a counter protester drew a gun during the event.

For her part, Gresham Police Chief Robin Sells' statement said, "We are prepared to ensure the safety of all attendees at this evening's event. I am strongly supportive of the event organizers' intent to create a family-friendly environment, so that our next generation has the opportunity to learn about justice and how to let their voices be heard."

In addition to an opportunity to meet new councilor Jones-Dixon, organizers said the rally will feature a chalk mural, speakers, entertainers and educators.

Sells said if community members have information about potential violence, they should contact Lt. Jeff Miller at 503-793-6074 so the police can investigate.

"Please help us keep our community and our families safe by remaining peaceful," Sells urged.

Beyond Wednesday night's rally, Sells said, "The Gresham Police Department is ready to meet this moment and build bridges with our community. In coordination with the City Manager's and Mayor's office, we have started this work and have been meeting with some of our local community leaders. We look forward to more of these conversations around these issues of racial justice soon."

Mayor Echols said, "Let me be clear, to date, the protests held in Gresham have been primarily peaceful calls for meaningful work to occur to support racial justice. City Council supports these peaceful gatherings — we are listening, and we are ready to embark upon this work that is needed to move our community forward, so that Gresham is truly welcoming for all."

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