Memorial held for slain protester Aaron 'Jay' Danielson
Friends and compatriots honored the memory of Aaron Joseph Danielson — known by the sound of his middle initial, Jay — during a celebration of life at Esther Short Park in downtown Vancouver.
Danielson, who frequently attended protests to film and as a member of the local conservative group Patriot Prayer, was shot and killed in downtown Portland seven days before, during the tail-end of a Trump 2020 car parade that turned chaotic, and ultimately deadly, as it entered the streets of downtown Portland on Aug. 29.
The memorial service was held on Saturday, Sept. 5 — one day after what would have been Danielson's 40th birthday on Sept. 4.
"I was watching the moment those two shots rang out, those two shots that have been heard around the world," said Michelle Dawson, a Yacolt city councilor, her voice breaking. "I never did imagine that just turning on a live video, that I would watch the murder and execution of our friend."
Prosecutors say Danielson was killed by a left-wing protester, Michael Forest Reinoehl, who himself died in a hail of bullets fired by U.S. Marshals attempting to arrest him in Washington state on Sept. 3.
An emotional moment from the Aaron "Jay" Danielson memorial today— Zane Sparling (@PDXzane) September 6, 2020
Michelle Dawson, a Yacolt city councilor, says she met Jay at Patriot Prayer events
"I never did imagine that just turning on a live video, that I would watch the murder and execution of our friend." pic.twitter.com/TL0mDdZfs9
While the apparent political homicide left the city simmering on the 100th night of consecutive demonstrations, Joey Gibson, the leader of Patriot Prayer, encouraged the crowd in Vancouver to reject fear, saying "Jay was not a victim, and we are not victims."
"I don't want to see one person encouraging acts of violence in the name of Jay, not one," Gibson said.
The mourners affixed to their shirts stickers showing a cartoon version of Jay, bearded and wearing a baseball cap, with the caption: Legends Never Die. Others wore shirts reading "Justice for J" with a bunny ears symbol on a sleeve.
Dawson, who told the crowd she had met Jay while attending Patriot Prayer events and at the prayer circles she has held during lockdown, explained that the two-eared emblem honored an uproarious occasion during her birthday party when Jay unexpectedly arrived, incognito, in a full bunny suit.
"I'm never going to see that white bunny walking through my yard again," she said tearfully.
Many members of the crowd openly carried long guns or pistols, and at least one man wore the Hawaiian shirt trademark of the "Boogaloo" movement, which foresees a looming second Civil War. Vancouver Police monitored the peaceful gathering from afar, and no counter-protesters attended. A sizeable crowd was decked out in the black-and-yellow polo shirts worn by the Proud Boys.
Rex Fergus, one of the Proud Boys, said the organization is not racist but has been targeted due to lies spread by the mainstream media.
"The news media has been selling that story to people because that's what people want to hear — people want conflict. Peace doesn't sell," he said.
A man wearing a Patriot Prayer shirt, who gave his first two names as Daniel Patrick, noted that Danielson died wearing a Patriot Prayer hat, and publicly-reported court documents suggest the deceased shooter, Reinoehl, ducked out from behind a downtown parking garage in order to target him.
"Wearing this simple T-shirt was a subject of heated debate within my entire family ... and that's why I'm wearing a gun," Daniel Patrick explained, pointing to his holstered handgun.
Chandler Pappas was with Danielson when he died. He told prosecutors the duo had been drinking earlier in the evening and were out that night "to see what was going on," per court documents.
Approximately five hours earlier, Pappas clutched a paintball gun during an interview with the Portland Tribune, saying he was there to prevent assaults by providing security. Danielson, standing by his side, said little during the interview. After he died, police found a handgun on Danielson's person. It was not fired during the fatal encounter, police say.
Pappas described Danielson as "not a violent man, he was all about peace, he was all about love" at the memorial: "What a hard guy to lose."
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