Trump to Proud Boys: 'Stand back and stand by'
During a presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, President Donald Trump appeared to tell the Proud Boys — a violent right-wing group that the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated a hate group — to "stand back and stand by."
The group has clashed violently with left-wing protesters in Portland for years and held a rally Saturday, Sept. 26, at Delta Park. Many of the estimated 200 people in attendance carried rifles and side arms.
Members of the Portland City Council denounced Trump's comments the morning of the debate. Before the scheduled start of Wednesday's council hearing, all of the members accused Trump of spreading hate and further dividing the country by supporting the Pround Boys.
Mayor Ted Wheeler said the council has received anti-racism training from the Western States Center during the day and then saw Trump appeal to white supremacist during the debate.
"We all have an opportunity and an obligation to stand against violence and hate. Our city and our nation are going through a historic transition. People are demanding racial justice and fundamental change in virtually all of our public institutions. The challenge of creating that change is monumental. Nowhere is that challenge more monumental than with our public safety institutions," Wheeler said.
"Those changes are made even more challenging by our President and by anyone engaged in violence and vandalism, regardless of their political beliefs."
Eudaly said Trump's comments were not "dog whistles" but all out appeals to white supremacists.
The left-wing protesters sometimes are referred to as "antifa" or "anti-fascists," although, according to FBI Director Christopher Wray, that term is more an idea than an actual group.
In Tuesday's debate, Trump was asked to condemn white supremacy and right-wing extremism, and Portland was brought up as an example. Trump said "sure" but then declined to do so. When asked about the Proud Boys, the president replied: "Proud Boys? Stand back and stand by. … Somebody's got to do something about antifa and the left because this is not right-wing problem. … This is a left wing problem."
When moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News asked whether he was willing to condemn white supremacists and militant groups, the president also responded: "I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing, not the right wing. … I'm willing to do anything. I want to see peace."
Antifa followers have appeared at anti-racism protests, but there's been little evidence behind Republican claims that antifa members are to blame for the violence at such protests.
The New York Times on Wednesday reported that members of the Proud Boys began celebrating the president's comments on social media channels such as Telegram. One message called the comment "historic" and another claimed the group had seen a spike in new recruits, according to the Times.
Twitter and Facebook both suspended the Proud Boys from their sites in 2018 due to the group's violent messages.
Trump also said Tuesday that the "Portland sheriff" supports him. The city of Portland doesn't have a sheriff.
KOIN 6 News on Tuesday reached out to Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese about Trump's statement and received this response from Reese: "NO."
Reese tweeted, "In tonight's presidential debate the President said the 'Portland Sheriff' support him. As the Multnomah County Sheriff I have never supported Donald Trump and will never support him."
KOIN 6 is a news partner of Pamplin Media Group.
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