"This is not a protest. ... This is a celebration of President Trump."
Flag-draped big rigs and hundreds of other vehicles converged at the Clackamas Town Center mall for a Trump 2020 Cruise-In rally Saturday, Aug. 29.
With semis in the lead, the caravan zipped down Highway 224 before looping around downtown Portland on interstates 5 and 405, according to a map posted by organizers. But some in the convoy were stuck in traffic for as much as an hour — as the mall's parking lot gridlocked as soon as the cavalcade began.
â€œThis is not a protest... this is celebration of Donald Trump.â€— Zane Sparling (@PDXzane) August 30, 2020
A large crowd has gathered at the Clackamas Town Center mall in Portland for the Back the Blue Cruise In today pic.twitter.com/CjnGNVP64o
"I think the whole defunding the police thing is nonsense. There is some reform that needs to happen, but we back our boys in blue," said Bryce Lemmons of Kelso, Washington. "And we back Trump, 100%, he's been the best president we've had so far since JFK probably."
While at least one scuffle involving pepper spray was captured on video before the Cruise-In officially began, for the most part the hundreds of rallygoers and smaller bands of counterprotesters clashed only verbally at the mall. Later, as the cars crossed the Morrison Bridge, several attendees duked it out with their fists, and police made arrests. Protesters continued to brawl in the streets of downtown Portland, and one person wearing a Patriot Prayer hat was killed in a shooting.
One Trump truck belched black smoke onto a car whose driver held a sign calling Donald Trump a racist. Chandler Pappas, who recently attended a protest outside Gresham City Hall, was geared up with a Patriot Prayer hat, paintball gun and a knife ahead of the car parade. He said in an interview he brought the weapons to defend other attendees from being assaulted.
"I have a very disproportionately pessimistic view of the police, and there are a lot of things that need to change, but the bottom line is that we do need them," said Pappas, saying he was first charged criminally at age 12.
A counterprotester who asked not to be identified said his message was simple: "Black Lives Matter."
Trump rally on the move. Semi trucks are leading the convoy.— Zane Sparling (@PDXzane) August 30, 2020
Route has been posted on FB pic.twitter.com/4hVs3n7GUB
Clackamas County Sheriff's deputies blocked off access to two parking garages due to security concerns ahead of the rally, and also controlled traffic in the area. Around 2,500 people indicated they would attend the rally on social media.
Representatives for the mall told local journalist Cory Elia they were "not affiliated with this political event," and were working with law enforcement to ensure the safety of patrons of the shopping center.
State Rep. Mark Meek, D-Gladstone/Oregon City, said he was disappointed and upset that the Clackamas Town Center would allow a pro-Trump rally to gather. State Rep. Janelle Bynum, D-Happy Valley and an African American, had the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office called on her in 2018, when she was canvassing a neighborhood as part of her second-term campaign. Bynum's daughter Christine was then in 2019 harassed by Clackamas Town Center mall security for "loitering" in the parking lot.
"We've already had incidents with assault rifles on that property," Meek said. "It's a double standard that they're allowing a political event to occur on that property, yet they're actually discriminated against people of color on that property — single individuals — and they don't seem to want to take responsibility for either one."
One woman was even mounted on horseback during a round of speeches given in the mall parking lot, while another woman wore a larger-than-life Melania Trump mask.
Debbie Hoover of Vancouver, Washington, said she was a "huge Trump supporter" who backed the president's pro-life policies. "Law and order is really important," added her husband, asking not to be named.