Gresham councilors keep peace at heated protest at City Hall
Two Gresham city councilors waded into the thicket of dueling protest groups who slung slogans back and forth during a gathering that lasted for hours outside City Hall on Wednesday evening, Aug. 26.
Despite a faint waft of chemical mace at one brief moment, Gresham police officers built a barrier with their bodies between the two opposing sides, each numbering more than 100 people, and no further scuffles occurred for the remainder of the heated demonstration running from 6 to 8 p.m. No arrests were made.
Councilor Vincent Jones-Dixon — the first Black man to serve at City Hall — told the Outlook he was "here to keep the peace," while Councilor Eddy Morales said, "For me, this is really about defending our city against hate."
While several councilors had mulled removing the Black Lives Matter flag flying along Eastman Parkway during an emergency meeting held online hours earlier, the black and yellow-striped standard continued to flap in the wind as the crowds gathered.
Alan Swinney is here at Gresham City Hall. He declined to give an interview— Zane Sparling (@PDXzane) August 27, 2020
Swinney was caught on camera pointing a revolver at protesters in downtown Portland last weekend pic.twitter.com/oCvOA1NCUI
"We're a democracy. If people don't like what we do as an elected leadership, they should vote in November, but not resort to violence," said Morales, who is running for mayor and opposed removing the flag.
Members of both teams brought paint ball guns to the clash, with many from the black-clad left bearing shields and gas masks, while those on the right brought a few guns and many American flags hung on sturdy wooden flagpoles.
Martha, a Gresham resident who declined to give a last name, carried a sign reading "Black Lives Matter — Why Do These People Have Weapons?" at the protest.
"I'm here because every time these people come out, all they want to do is spread a message of hate, and incite it more," she said, referring to the pro-police side. "We're looking for equity."
But Ivan Hall, 19, of Sandy, argued that disproportionate representation of Black Americans within the criminal justice system was the result of cultural factors.
"Blacks may be killed in higher rates, but how is that racism?" he said.
Also making an appearance was Proud Boy associate Alan Swinney, who made headlines after he was caught on camera pointing a revolver at a crowd during a violent confrontation in downtown Portland last week. Though Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell has said he is a wanted man, spokesmen for the police bureau and the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office pointed fingers at each other regarding the actual lack of a warrant for his arrest, OPB reported.
Swinney, with a paint ball gun strapped to his belt, huffed on a vape pen and told a live-streamer at the event that "There's nobody's looking for me. I'm pretty easy to find."
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