Trump supporters, protesters clash in 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 "Hundreds Stand for LOve in downtown Lake Oswego" at www.lakeoswegoreview.com.
Supporters of President Donald Trump and groups of demonstrators who oppose him faced off in Lake Oswego on Saturday in an often loud and confrontational — yet largely peaceful — pair of marches.
The "March 4 Trump," which started in George Rogers Park before proceeding down State Street, was delayed multiple times by counter-protesters who blocked its path, and the marchers ultimately never completed their planned route.
Instead, the afternoon played out in a series of standoffs between the two groups on State Street, first in the George Rogers Park parking lot, again at the intersection of State and Leonard streets and finally in Lower Millennium Plaza Park, down the steps from the main plaza where a 'Stand for LOve' counter-protest had gathered earlier in the day.
Police made three arrests and one Trump supporter was hit on the head with a stick as the March 4 Trump left George Rogers Park around 12:30 p.m. During the confrontation at the gates that separate Millennium Plaza Park from the railroad tracks on State Street, a 76-year-old West Linn resident suffered a medical emergency and was transported by ambulance to a local hospital.
Otherwise, police reported nothing more serious Saturday than a flag burning and lots of angry shouting and taunting.
Trump supporters gather
March 4 Trump participants gathered in George Rogers Park in the morning, with several members of the group's security team standing guard on the perimeter and roughly a dozen police officers from Lake Oswego and other jurisdictions keeping watch at various points around the park.
"Ultimately, we're just here to keep people safe on both sides," said Brad Smith, who identified himself as the leader of the security detail. The group, he said, was composed of volunteers from Oregon and Washington, many of whom had worked at rallies in the past.
Carol Leek, the event's main organizer, was one of the first to arrive and said the group had obtained a permit for the event from the City's Parks & Recreation Department.
"I'm feeling good, feeling positive," Leek said. "I like being around Trump people, and law enforcement has our backs, for sure. The police presence is awesome, and our security detail is unbelievable."
The crowd that began to filter into the park appeared to be a mix of Portland-area residents and people from other parts of Oregon and Washington, with a large contingent from Leek's hometown of Salem. Kimberly Looff and her boyfriend, Chester Ross, drove four hours from Gold Hill, near Medford, to join the march.
"I've been fighting for this for the last year and a half, ever since Trump started (his campaign)," Looff said, "but this is the first time I've gotten to be around a group of Trump supporters."
Ross said he lived in Pennsylvania before moving to Oregon last year, and that he'd volunteered to serve as security at Trump rallies in that state. He said he and Looff decided to join the Lake Oswego march in response to the various anti-Trump protests that have taken place in the months since the election.
"We were really excited Trump won," he said. "Why can't we just celebrate and be happy?"
Trump marchers began arriving in greater numbers after 11 a.m., clustering around the park's picnic pavilion to avoid the rain and brief hail that pelted the park. There wasn't space under the roof for everyone, though.
"I don't mind getting wet," said Heath Paulus, who came from East Portland to join the march. "I came out to support our president. In this area of the country, he doesn't get as much support as he deserves."
Many people in the crowd said they were motivated to march in response to anti-Trump protests, while others said they wanted to get a chance to interact with fellow supporters. Nearly every attending marcher that spoke to The Review said they'd heard about the event online, most often on Facebook.
"Because the looney left is out there having hissy fits, I felt Trump needed our support," said Diane Gruber, a marcher from West Linn. "This is the first president in two decades where I've felt like he was working for me, an average American."
Many people in the crowd held U.S. flags, as well as pro-Trump signs and banners bearing the Trump campaign's logo. Several carried "Don't Tread on Me" flags. One attendee, Gloria Warner, drew attention for her sign featuring a Russian flag. When asked why, she said she didn't know what role, if any, Russia had played in the 2016 election, but wanted to "thank Russia" in the event that the country interfered to help Trump.
"I want to meet people who are of a like mind," she said. "We've learned to hide — I never saw one (pro-Trump) yard sign in my neighborhood — but 63,000 people in Multnomah County voted for him, and I'm looking for them."
Former Republican Senate candidate Mark Callahan was among the attendees, along with his two daughters. Callahan ran for the U.S. Senate last year, but lost to Ron Wyden. He said he supported the event as a way to encourage people to "come together in unity."
"It's a great turnout," he said. "It's great to be in such a positive environment. We're all here to stay positive and keep the peace."
A small number of opposing protesters also began to appear around the edges of the event, although at the time they did not appear to be attempting to disrupt it.
"I really feel Trump supporters need to see this part if they're going to support him," said Portland resident Rachel Harris, who carried a sign promoting love and tolerance.
The march begins
Just before noon, Leek and other speakers led the assembled crowd of roughly 200 people in the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by The Lord's Prayer. She thanked the security team and police officers for their presence — eliciting chants of "blue lives matter" — and encouraged the marchers to "please avoid any confrontation with the opposition."
Multnomah County Republican Chairman James Buchal tried to give a speech about the recent election and his support for Trump's immigration policies, but he was partially disrupted by a counter-protester who entered the crowd and began screaming and making obscene gestures.
The crowd responded by chanting "USA, USA," and the woman was quickly surrounded by a group of about 30 Trump supporters who tried to usher her away from the speakers.
She continued to scream, though, even as marchers headed out of the park.
Police remained on all sides of the gathering while it was still in the park, but officers did not interfere until a group of about 20-30 masked protesters tried to block the Trump marchers from leaving.
The two groups appeared to be at a tense standoff for several minutes, with plenty of obscenity-laden, back-and-forth shouting, until the Trump supporters gradually began to make their way through the parking lot toward State Street. There were a few altercations between the two groups, and police said three people were ultimately arrested.
LOPD Sgt. Tom Hamann, who was at the scene, said the arrests took place after "someone was struck with a stick." One of the arrested protesters identified himself as Zachary Pursley as he was being led away by police.
City officials later released a statement saying that Pursley, 24, had been arrested for disorderly conduct and interfering with a peace officer. Also arrested were Sonny Keithly, 23, for assault; and Micheal Smith, 36, for criminal mischief and resisting arrest. Both Keithly and Smith also face the same charges as Pursley.
All three were lodged in Clackamas County Jail, City officials said.
Series of standoffs
March 4 Trump organizers had planned to walk north along State Street to A Avenue, then march one or two blocks west before looping back past the edge of Millennium Plaza Park. But when the front of the march reached the intersection of State and Leonard streets, it was blocked by a large group of counter-protesters, and police diverted the marchers through the Old Town neighborhood and back to George Rogers Park.
By 1 p.m., most of the pro-Trump group was gone and the park was all but empty.
"Originally, we were just going to march one time," said attendee Andrew Landers. "But the leaders said, 'Let's go again.'"
So a portion of the marchers opted to circle back through the park and repeat the original route. This time, they stood their ground at State and Leonard in what amounted to a stalemate with counter-protesters, who stood facing them — arms linked — as both sides screamed at each other.
Meanwhile, a crowd of 'Stand for LOve' supporters lined the sidewalk on the opposite side of State Street, from Leonard all the way to Sundeleaf Plaza — part of a planned event that had assembled in Millennium Plaza Park earlier before heading out on its own march.
Nearly two dozen police officers stood in the middle of the intersection, keeping the crowds separated. Traffic backed up in both directions on State Street, but continued to slowly pass through.
At one point, LOPD Lt. Doug Treat tried to negotiate with both sides in the standoff. He asked the protesters to let the Trump group pass; they refused. He told the Trump group that if they headed down Leonard and back to the park, police would provide an escort; they refused. The only other option, Treat said, was for everybody to just stay where they were and keep yelling at each other — and that's what happened for about the next hour.
"We're just going to wait this out," Hamann said.
Periodic chants of "Trump's my president" and "eight more years" from the Trump marchers were answered by calls of "this is what democracy looks like" from the Stand for LOve crowd and "racist scumbags" from the counter-protest group on the opposite side of Leonard Street.
Despite the near-constant shouting, both sides remained peaceful and on the sidewalks, with no major physical confrontations.
At around 2 p.m., some of the Trump supporters started down Leonard Street and then down a stairwell into the Oswego Village shopping center. The groups briefly consolidated again around the entrance to the shopping center until several dozen remaining Trump supporters began to make their way further up State Street.
"I'm bummed that a lot of people went home," said Janice Daniels, one of the remaining marchers. She added that she was happy with the event's original turnout, even if only a portion of the marchers made it past the standoff.
A half-dozen police officers on motorcycles quickly broke off and followed the Trump supporters in an effort to stay ahead of the crowd. The marchers ended up in Lower Millennium Plaza Park, where in one last tense moment they were prevented from ascending stairs to the main park area.
Roughly a dozen masked protesters joined a group of Stand for LOve participants in an attempt to block the gates at the base of the stairs. Bob Stowell, a 76-year-old West Linn resident who was carrying an oxygen tank, was among those attempting to block the stairs; he suffered a medical emergency and had to be taken to a hospital.
Police rushed in to assist him and then continued to block the stairs, leaving most of the remaining Trump marchers — and some of the protesters from both groups — in the lower plaza. That led to a lot of back-and-forth shouting between the groups, but no physical altercations.
At one point, a group of mostly masked protesters began burning a U.S. flag in the center of the lower plaza, eliciting angy shouting from the pro-Trump demonstrators but nothing more. Both groups gradually dispersed over the next hour, bringing the march to a close.
LOPD Chief Don Johnson credited officers and deputies from across the Portland area for keeping marchers and counter-protesters safe. Among the agencies who took part: Tigard, Oregon City, West Linn, Gresham, Canby, Hillsboro, Tualatin, Beaverton and Portland police departments, and the Washington and Clackamas County sheriff's offices.
"Today's event went very well," Johnson said. "We had hoped for the best, but planned for the worst. We appreciate the assistance of (our) law enforcement partners, in addition to the commitment of the organizers to keep this event peaceful."